The sixth record from The Strokes follows a period where each member spent time on other projects. But seven years on from 2013’s ‘Comedown Machine’ the fab five are back with trailblazing material.
Playing big soulless sports arenas was never what these iconic New Yorkers were about. Yet, they knew how to create a buzz. Giving a special performance in their hometown on New Year’s Eve, they also played at a rally for Bernie Sanders at the University of New Hampshire and a string of European shows.
Produced by Rick Rubin, this nine track follow-up was recorded at his Shangri-La Studies in Malibu. While its spark takes the listener to ‘Is This It’, the sound shows clever moves into other territory. The cover features a painting by late neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat titled Bird On Money hints that things aren’t the same; the band moved on long ago.
But then this is only fair. The meld of experimentation and tradition has long been a feature on their releases, and this project plays with influences, creating an absorbing space where elements of ‘80s electro-pop, post-punk and Krautrock come together.
The Strokes are adept arrangers, an ability that transfers smoothly to this project, while their ambition to reach ever wider means they're constantly exploring new ground. Singer Julian Casablancas’ voice delivers on rawness, as he seeks to tackle the higher end of his vocal range with confidence.
Electro-belter ‘The Adults Are Talking’ offers vibrancy and euphoria, whereas second track ‘Selfless’ is quiet and personal. The infectious ‘Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus’ has an honest and matter-of-fact feel about it, “I want new friends, but they don’t want me / They’re making friends while I watch TV / I thought it was you, but maybe it’s me”. The track is reminiscent of ‘Eleventh Dimension’ from the singer’s album ‘Phrazes For The Young’.
Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing With Myself’ inspired ‘Bad Decisions’, a track that could easily have appeared on ‘Is This It’; the same cannot be said for the ‘80s Toto-like feel of ‘Eternal Summer’ or the Giorgio Moroder echoes of ‘At the Door’. The band pay homage to Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground via inspired guitar lines and vocals on ‘Why Are Sundays So Depressing’, while the introspection of ‘Not The Same Anymore’ plays with the complexity of change.
Finally, the organ-led ‘Ode To The Mets’ extrapolates intentional asymmetry between keys and rhythm while Julian’s vocals settle reassuringly. The track builds before escalating in intensity, providing a soothing end to the blistering presentation.
Boisterous, bright and brilliant, the world’s favourite rock ‘n’ roll band shine, sounding better than they have for years. Intimate, outward-looking and probing, it’s an illustrious effort, which should become an instant classic.
Words: Susan Hansen
Dig it? Dig deeper: Lou Reed, Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines
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