Over the years, this has led them to try out various guises. There was the misfiring experimentation of 2006’s First Impressions of Earth, the partial return to something more familiar but partially wilfully obtuse Angles, and last time out a semi-successful replication of the 80s on 2013’s Comedown Machine. The question obviously becomes: where has all this led them to now?
The answer is back to the beginning. Undoubtedly, this is the record that is most reminiscent of their first two albums. Although for about two seconds on the opening track, you wonder if they have gone in a more experimental direction. A moment of glitchiness on The Adults are Talking suggests we may be heading into Kid A-ish territory. Alas, no seconds later, a very familiar Strokes riff kicks in, not that it takes anything away from the very catchy and infectious opener that sets the tone the album perfectly.
The opener also illustrates one of the chief joys of the album, which is that the band has regained their swagger and seems to be actually having fun. Nothing feels forced, pained or contrived, as has been the case so often on some of their other records. Granted, some may think they’re having a little too much fun given the arch knowingness on display at times. It is bound to rub some the wrong way.
Conversely, we also find Julian Casablancas at his most reflective, focusing on past mistakes, particularly on Bad Decisions and Not The Same Anymore. The former, you suspect, reflects on career mistakes while the latter focuses on relational ones. Despite sharing similar lyrical terrain, both are poles apart musically, the former being a straight-up garage rock number while the latter is a profoundly melancholic effort.
Across the nine tracks, there is little in the way of weak links with the possible exception of the first single At The Door, a somewhat plodding effort with a squelchy synth beat that sounds not unlike someone continually honking a car horn. Thankfully, there is way more in terms of stand-outs as both other singles – the aforementioned Bad Decisions and Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus – being as effervescent and catchy as the band’s best. The cheekily Psychedelic Furs sampling Eternal Summer is another highlight showing off both sides of Casablancas’ vocal as he employs both a gentle falsetto and a Strummer-esque snarl at various points.
There is little doubt a portion of this album’s appeal is deeply rooted in nostalgia. The New Abnormal is the exact sort of record the group’s early fan base has craved for years. It is the most focused, fun, memorable, and straight-up best effort the band has released since their early 00s heyday.