In 2003, my roommate at the time, put a copy of The Strokes’ Room on Fire CD on my desk and gave me the explicit instructions to listen. This set off a fandom that has lasted 17 years and counting. In many ways, the music of The Strokes has been the soundtrack to my adult life.
In the early 2000s, The Strokes were cementing street cred by resurrecting 1970s New York City grit that had once defined a golden age of rock n’ roll. Some argued that The Strokes were a bunch of spoiled private school kids toying with noisy guitars. But for a generation, my generation, they were our hope of climbing out of the late 90s teen-pop sinkhole into a world worth returning.
Hearing songs from Is this It at dingy underground clubs on the Lower East Side was a rush of possibility and youth. My fellow 20-somethings spent weekends frequenting the likes of Bowery Ballroom and Terminal 5 to feel the 60 minute rush of hearing it played live. The Strokes along with their peer group of early aughts rockers had found the winning formula for conjuring Blondie’s CBGB and giving it wings for a second act.
But The Strokes, like their much loved Lower East Side itself, outgrew their roots. Their fans were aging hipsters with corporate jobs and babies. Heck, The Strokes were aging hipsters with corporate jobs and babies. They were adults who were known for their youth. Distracted by domesticity and side gigs, time between albums grew and their outputs were more of throwing a bone to a pack of loyalists for sticking with them for so long than a dedication to their craft or a passion for creating.
The New Abnormal delivers Julian Casablancas’ strained rock lullaby vocals paired with playful riffs and stead drumbeats that prove soothing in their ambient familiarity. The album doesn’t excite or deliver hope for a new era of marching band jackets and late night raves. Instead, it confirms what we all already knew, but didn’t want to accept. As the magical days of of youth have come to an end for The Strokes generation, so to has the hey day of our beloved band. The New Abnormal is a perfectly lovely soundtrack for an evening in. Which ironically, is the antithesis of what The Strokes represent.
The Strokes commendably stay true to giving the people what they want instead of trying to alter their sound to attract a new generation. But their hearts haven’t been in it for years. Every new album gives a glimmer of hope, yet, every listen reminds us that you can never go home again. So much so, that our beloved downtown tribe has for the most part, moved to LA. To quote the Gin Blossoms, the past is gone, but something might be found to take its place. Perhaps that’s a mature, seasoned band of brothers whose lives have diverged, but whose love for the movement they created and each other remains unchanged.
Listen to the full album on Spotify