Review Summary: Tell us a story. I know you're not boring.
To name and base an EP around the premise of what is, what was, and what will be isn't inherently uninspired. The passage of time is a powerful and loaded theme for the arts, concerned with ideas of change, whether in the form of pro- or regression. Here though, the terms 'future', 'present' and 'past' are just three maudlin mascots, pumping pom-poms with slack wrists and sagged jowls for the creatively insipid.
The future of The Strokes is a shrug. 'Drag Queen' seems uncertain of itself, a foray into post-punk influences that takes fresh ingredients and tosses them in the microwave. Whilst its chorus is gripping and muscular, and bolstered by an uneasy bassline, the rest of the track is content to not do much of anything. Casablanca's amp-fed vocals are as devoid of personality as they've ever been, compressed and flattened like a Photobucket .jpeg, serving only as a trademark of the band's sound and not as something to take an active interest in.
The present of The Strokes is a shrug. The misspelt title 'OBLIVIUS' is, I can only imagine, intentional, though whether it's for any particular reason is up for debate. It's as catchy a tune as they've crafted, utilising spindly twin guitars and a vocal performance that actually feels momentous – but all the gravitas is lost in the shaky, uneven production and gutless vocal effects. The guitars are too high in the mix, and they begin to nag like bored budgies, and Julian, so as not to appear as though he gives a shi
t and tarnish his cool dude rep, records his vocals facing the ceiling with the microphone pressed against his Adam's apple.
The past of The Strokes is a shrug. “Okay, I see how it is now. You don't have time to play with me any more.”
Well, no, not if you're gonna fart around with embarrassing, unnecessary ad-libs like that. The laziest of the three original tracks on this EP, 'Threat of Joy' would do better if it was called 'Threat to
Joy'. As a laid-back tune, it doesn't work – it's laid back too far and fallen asleep. As a call to the past, it doesn't work – it does the band a disservice by not revisiting the strength of early singles that made them such a spirited and revered outfit. It skulks from start to finish, sounding completely bored of itself, adamant in its cause to not be of interest to anyone.
If the intention was for each track to be a time capsule – to act as ambassadors for the various stages of The Strokes' career – then Future Present Past has fallen way short of the mark. If they're not actually meant to be so indicative, which I think is the case, then it was a mistake to give the EP such a misguided afterthought of a title. That the EP coincides with the launch of Julian Casablanca's radio show, as well as the band's signing to Julian's own 5-year-old label in Cult Records, tells me that this is merely a stopgap, a brief shove into the public eye. It reeks of resting on laurels, of tepid complacency, of trademarks as a crutch. To start with the Future and end with the Past – it just seems to point to deterioration. To a shrug.