Review Summary: The 2010s, whatever the fuck they’re called, we took ‘em off. And now we’ve been unfrozen and we’re back.
Seven years is a mighty long time, innit? Even more so when your last appearance alienated fans who could not find the cocky nonchalance from Is This It
and Room on Fire
. Whether or not you enjoyed Angles
or Comedown Machine
, these records did not manage to make a lasting impression. Julian Casablancas seemed absent, mumbling "I don't care"-type lyrics while the music had the unfortunate tendency to make you nod off. This time around, the band took the time they needed. Writing sessions dated as far back as 2016 and opener "The Adults Are Talking" was first played live in 2019. With more time at their disposal, the 2001 hipsters' favourite band returns with their best album in 15 years.
Figurehead of the band, Julian Casablancas returns to its former status as charismatic leader distilling lyrics mixing cold pragmatism and warm hope, all sung with conviction by a voice only asking to be accompanied by thousands of others. After sounding distracted in the most recent Strokes' records, he now seems ready for the challenge. Sailing between synthethiser-enhanced vocals, understated yet not underwhelming whispers and his improved falsetto, Casablancas is fully committed to one goal only: make The Strokes great again.
This mission is also pursued by the four other musicians. Beyond all sonic consideration, they got their inimitable indie rock swagger back, incorporating 80s synthpop waves reminiscing once more of a sleek past reclaimed by the present. These nods to the past have always been the essence of the band, pastiching indie icons' style and idealizing an already evanescing golden era. Arriving at a crossroads in their lives, they realize that this nostalgia is now fully theirs, not necessarily that of a time they would have liked to have known. They are now yearning for their own youth. The best way to pay homage to your past is to live your present to the fullest, so the band decide to simply go for it
and play catchy melodies and dancing beats.
This new album is not revolutionary by any means. Rather it succeeds where the last few failed: being enjoyable and full of catchy tunes. These two characteristics are what made The Strokes famous in the first instance. It also brings back a core argument in the band's success: coolness. This record is cool at its core, fueled with breezy tunes to spend your post-quarantine parties to. What if the new abnormal is that The Strokes release such a swell album in 2020?