The year of 2020 marks the year that The Strokes, born in 1998, are – in terms of their collective moniker – finally old enough to drink alcohol in the US. To celebrate? They’re having a party in the shape of a comeback; the kind that those of us who made fake IDs in order to mosh to ‘Last Nite’ have waited for since 2013’s ‘Comedown Machine’. The Strokes defined the noughties, stoked the indie revival flames of the ’10s and – based on what we’ve heard so far from upcoming album ‘The New Abnormal’ – are already on their way to dominating the ’20s.
Last week the first track from the new album dropped – the celestial synth-led and drum-less ‘At the Door’. It teased the new era in the way that indie teenagers proudly reinvent themselves: just a bit darker, moodier, quieter.
The journey towards ‘The New Abnormal’ began with vague statements in 2016: sporadic quotes of a “vibe” and mutterings of writing “slowly but surely”. New songs peppered shows without any proper fanfare – ‘The Adults Are Talking’ first played last May, ‘Ode to the Mets’ on New Year’s Eve – clearly saving the big guns, confident it would be worth the wait.
‘Bad Decisions’ is here to remind long-time Strokes fans why they have stayed loyal for so long. It’s ‘Reptilia’ levels of fun, if a touch less confrontational and more eager to please. There are shades of The Clash’s ‘Lost in the Supermarket’ and a nod to ‘I Melt With You’ by Modern English in the giddy central guitar refrain – but it’s also an acknowledged riff on Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing with Myself’, with Idol and Tony James receiving a songwriting credit.
Influences aside, the track offers an unmistakable return to every trick that first made The Strokes, well, The Strokes. The tumbling drums never pause, the pace stays upbeat and optimistic. Casablancas sings with liquid-clear romance, spinning a nostalgia for Moscow in 1972. “I hang on everything you say / I wanna write down every word,” the decisive lover croons. He’s having fun – the sort of toe-tapping, heart-skipping earnest thrill of catching the eyes of the person you’re trying to impress.
It feels familiar, something to undoubtedly slot perfectly into a show of floor-to-ceiling bangers honed over the past 22 years, while still rewarding in the way such a clear nostalgia kick somehow feels fresh. The track further complicates any one predicted sound for the new album – and makes it even more exciting. If ‘At the Door’ was for the young music fan putting on their most convincing look of mature sophistication, ‘Bad Decisions’ fast-forwards a few hours into the night and catches them, very full glass in hand and breathless grin plastered on their face, gleefully giving in to the Strokes’ magnanimous return.