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The Strokes’ highly anticipated sixth studio record The New Abnormal makes one thing abundantly clear – they’re still the coolest indie rock band around.
Retaining Julian Casablancas’ penchant for ever-knowing lyricism, it’s the sentimental nods to their past wrapped up in experimental samples of the future that make the record an exciting listen.
Nearly two decades on from the ground-breaking Is This It that pushed them into the forefront of the New York City music scene, their self-aware and confident nature never falters. Their innovative sound remains as instantly recognisable as ever.
Produced by Rick Rubin, The New Abnormal was born at the Shangri-La studio in Malibu, California and arrives after an almost 7-year LP hiatus. Their last album – Comedown Machine – was released back in 2013, and the band only reunited briefly to release the three-track Future Present Past EP in 2016, with each member otherwise working on their own projects.
The album cover – an image of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s colourful 1981 artwork Bird On Money – reflects the record’s bold, bright and chaotic nature, a mash-up of genres delivered with expert precision.
They’ve always known how to drum-up an easy thrill with their archetypal riffs, and while much of the release has a quintessential Strokes sound, such as on Why Are Sunday’s So Depressing and album opener The Adults Are Talking – a track that they’ve teased across the live circuit over the last year – Casablancas’ love of synth is never far from view.
It bursts through on the disco-ready Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus – its heavy, guitar-driven chorus and littered synthesizers – allowing the frontman to reflect on memories of eighties bands from his past, while looking to forget it all and start over.
This ‘80s theme continues thanks to the insertion of Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself melody on Bad Decisions, the upbeat borrowed notes clashing with lyrics inspired by Julian’s parents’ well-documented, tempestuous relationship. This isn’t the first time Casablancas has criticized his father in his writing, with previous Strokes tunes When It Started and Barely Legal openly referencing the singer’s familial issues.
The stark differences between dreamy pop ballads Selfless and Eternal Summer are inspired. The latter offers a hazy summer jam with electro-pop verses and mellowed vocals before launching into a chanting chorus. The synth-heavy, drumless At The Door sees the band at their most experimental, a quirk which they continue in slow-burning album closer Ode To The Mets.
It’s these relaxed exchanges that see New York’s hippest band able to return with a deeply personal and experimental feat, triumphantly combining classic odes of familiarity with fresh, unexpected twists.
1. The Adults Are Talking
3. Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus
4. Bad Decisions
5. Eternal Summer
6. At The Door
7. Why Are Sundays So Depressing
8. Not The Same Anymore
9. Ode To The Mets