I don’t think anyone would contest that the Strokes were a game-changing, scene-shaking, gigantically huge deal in 2002; but are we still interested? After all, the star of punk and pop-influenced guitar-led indie has somewhat waned, skinny jeans have become positively mainstream, and the last album was largely disappointing.
The new offering, ‘One Way Trigger’, is not a single but rather a “song” (what defines a single, other than being an individually released track? Is this the single equivalent of a mixtape? Is the distinction that it’s being given away for free?) taken from their approaching album Comedown Machine. It’s certainly recognisably the Strokes, but it’s closer in sound to Angles than any of their other releases. But that’s what we should expect – it is after all, 2013, and the Strokes, like the rest of the world, have changed in the last ten years.
Though if you do want to hark back to the days when no-one had ever heard of Razorlight, when you could still smoke in pubs, and when chavs were just beginning to take over the streets, there’s something here for you too. An inherently Strokes riff dominates; albeit from a synth rather than a guitar, and Albert manages to jam in a straight classic Strokes solo, which sounds as if he at least hasn’t changed his amp set-up since 2002.
All told, it sounds very Julian. His falsetto soars over the looping synths and minimal, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs-mimicking minimal percussion, coming within a stroke (wahey!) of his self-parodying vocals on the Lonely Island’s ‘Boombox’. From what we saw in the Angles-era interviews, the band was then threatened by serious internal divisions, and it seems to be Casablancas who is leading the way out of the darkness. After waiting six years last time, it’s refreshing to hear a new track after a mere two.
If this had been from some unknown new band, I’d certainly have sat up and taken notice. The verse is a bit annoying, but I like the progression to the chorus, I like the solo, I even like the synths. But there’s something about the Strokes (their on-going status as the saviours of indie-rock this century and that perfect, perfect first album and their jeans and their hair and and) that means we can’t take it. I’m disappointed, and unreasonably so. What was I expecting – a lost track from Is This It? Which of course, now, wouldn’t be half as revolutionary anyway as it was first time round. They progress, they’ve stayed together; we should be thankful. Comedown Machine is slated for late March release, so we have a full two months to rein our expectations in yet.