Published Apr 10, 2020The New Abnormal is an apt descriptor for where the Strokes stand at this point in their career. The band has officially been in this current state – a sometimes dazzling, often frustrating experiment in playing with fan expectation – for longer than they were heralded as NYC rock saviours. This is who they are now, and we'd all better get used to it.
As with pretty much every Strokes record since 2005's First Impressions of Earth, serious fans will find things to love about The New Abnormal. There are plenty of good – or at least interesting – songs, but they tend to overstay their welcome, meandering when they should sprint. There's a tighter, better album hiding somewhere in these nine tracks.
The Psychedelic Furs-biting, falsetto laced "Eternal Summer" is a fun detour, but it carries on for about three minutes too long – the same can be said for (less fun) introductory single "At the Door," which goes nowhere after its promising first minute.
As an initial taste of the record, "At the Door" was a bit of a false flag – The New Abnormal sounds more like typical Strokes fare than that single suggested (though that's not saying much). The album's best moments – prickly opener "The Adults Are Talking"; flagrant Billy Idol rip-off "Bad Decisions"; the gradual build of closer "Ode to the Mets" – can stand as solid late-career entries.
Still, the good moments only drive home the sensation that this famously contentious band remain unsure of what they're meant to be. Though they're pushing 22 years together, the Strokes sound every bit the teenagers they once inspired – gangly, unsure, sometimes brilliant but mostly awkward. The New Abnormal is not a bad record, but it is a frustrating one, made by a band that feels pulled in a dozen different directions. (Sony Music)