Following nearly seven years between full-length albums, a turn with studio wizard Rick Rubin seems to have done the trick to bring The Strokes back into the spotlight. The band is experimenting more than ever on The New Abnormal, while evoking danceable disco melodies reminiscent of ABBA and Cyndi Lauper.
Julian Casablancas is at his most dynamic as a vocalist on this record, opting for falsettos and wails over his classic low-end hum. With so many songs stripping the band’s layered guitars in favour of singular voices, the result is a wonderfully emotional offering.
The first half of the record is packed with 80s inspired hits that stick with you since The Strokes are able to inject enough of their own personality to avoid pastiche.
Though “Bad Decisions” itself comes pretty close to a new wave post-punk vibe similar to Modern English, the energy and frantic ideas they add help make it something all their own. The rest of the album blends Is This It-era chords with abrasive effects and synths, ensuring the band grows while still scratching that itch for something fans know.
Additional meta reflections on song writing aside, the impactful moments on The New Abnormal show The Strokes have clearly spent most of their downtime obsessing over their songs. This leaves their album notably less chaotic than its accompanying Jean-Michel Basquiat artwork, but just as colourful and experimental.