The Strokes Rise From the Ashes on “The New Abnormal”


The Strokes return with a triumphant album. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Sam Hadelman, Staff Writer

The Strokes have spent the last decade trying to recreate the magic of “Is This It” and “Room On Fire,” yet this was obviously not the solution to furthering their success. 

Reinvention, not duplication, was the ingredient needed to bring the Strokes back to their former glory. It only took them a few albums in between to arrive at this conclusion. “The New Abnormal” is a physical embodiment of millennial anxiety and a comforting exploration of what it truly means to grow up. 

The Strokes are a permanent exhibit in the history of New York rock and roll. They were the new-age messiahs, bringing rock to a new frontier with their earlier work. The only problem was the musical world changed, and seemingly they simply couldn’t. Time and time again, fans would wonder when the spark that collectively inspired a whole generation of youth would return, and after a slew of mediocre releases, fans wondered if the old Strokes would ever return to their kingdom. As individuals, members of the Strokes had seen marginal prosperity, with solo releases and side projects, but nothing on the level of the early work of the band. Every release in between “Room On Fire” and “The New Abnormal” felt like the Strokes were doing a caricature of themselves, recycling sounds and inspirations that had already been in their preliminary records. 

“The New Abnormal” was like watching Kobe Bryant drop 60 points in his final game; finally, the superstar that my childhood memories are embroidered with returning to the form present in my nostalgia. The Strokes sound like they are hungry, a quality that is hard to achieve for legacy artists, especially this deep in their career. Rather than going through the motions as they did on the albums released in the middle of their career, “The New Abnormal” feels like a hard, necessary reset for the band. Angst is the hardest concept to recapture because the very essence of the feeling is the fragility of its fainting existence, so for the Strokes to rekindle that sentiment was an accomplishment all in itself. 

Hearing “The New Abnormal” brought me right back to a time where driving with my best friend who got his permit that week was the accomplishment of a lifetime. It was an extremely warm and familiar reaction that I never thought would arise from a Strokes album again. 

Julian Casablancas is in elite form on this record, his voice more confident than ever. The songs sound fresh and ingenuitive, bringing in a whole new generation of Strokes fans with them. At no point did boredom strike this album, with every song building on the last. “The New Abnormal” is about an ever-changing landscape for misfits and outsiders and what finally happens to that collective when they grow up. 

The discomfort of conformity and aging ring throughout the record, as if the Strokes were piecing together what maturity truly meant not only for their content but their sound. This trapeze act of keeping the sentiments of your old work, while exploring the new, exciting landscape of innovation is a difficult one, but on this LP, the Strokes land a perfect 10 with their act. 

The album is only nine tracks, all produced by the legendary Rick Rubin, and those two factors lead to a lot of the album’s success. At no point did the album overstay its welcome, and Rubin’s contribution was very obvious with the vibrance and elasticity of the sounds and production on the project. The concepts on the album gracefully weave through personal pitfalls, politics and aging, and at no point in that process do the Strokes lose a step. 

“The Adults Are Taking” is a prime example of how crisp, concise and new-fashioned the Strokes are at the moment. The track immediately reminded me of the essence of the band that made me love them so much initially. After years of tinkering and playing around with their sound, the Strokes finally found the formula for success again. 

We have all wanted to see the Strokes win for some time now, and it’s obvious for the first time in a decade they share the same sentiment. This dominance marks a new era for the band. For the first time in a while, they are yet again one of the most exciting and exhilarating acts in music. The Strokes arose from the ashes and created a body of work that is unequivocally provocative and beautiful. It’s the developed and grown project their fans and critics alike knew the Strokes had in them. 

With this in mind, hopefully, “The New Abnormal” becomes the new normal for the Strokes.