In the run-up to The Strokes’ triumphant set at London’s Hyde Park back in June, guitarist Albert Hammond Jr caused speculation that it might be the band’s last. “I don’t know if London might be our last show, you know what I mean? People think I’m lying but I’m just tired of trying to make some positive spin, but I’ve got no idea,” he told BBC Radio 6 Music during an interview.
Now, this past weekend (September 27), during the band’s set at Washington DC’s Landmark Festival, frontman Julian Casablancas seems to have confirmed that the band are doing the very opposite of calling it a day. “We’ll be back soon. We’ll be back in the studio and shit,” he told the crowd as the group headlined the event’s final day.
Some doubters might try and tell you this can only end badly. Granted, ‘Comedown Machine’ and ‘Angles’ aren’t the best albums in The Strokes’ back catalogue, but they’re not terrible by any stretch – I’d go so far as to call ‘Angles’ criminally underrated. Sure, it’s no one’s favourite Strokes album, but it’s still got plenty to offer. If they weren’t to make another record, but carried on touring, they’d soon become an indie nostalgia act, and that’s a fate they really don’t deserve when there’s still life left in them.
In 2014, Interpol, another New York band who emerged around the same time as The Strokes, returned from a dull, dirge-y record with one of the best of their career so far. It wasn’t a move that was expected, not least because it was the first album the band had done without pivotal member Carlos D, but, if anything, that seemed to refresh them. The Strokes might not have lost a member, but there are other ways they could have been rejuvenated.
For a start, it’s been three years since ‘Comedown Machine’ was released. In the interim, they’ve all dabbled in other projects, from drummer Fab Moretti occasionally playing drums with Har Mar Superstar, to Albert’s solo career, Nikolai’s new band The Summer Moon and, of course, Julian’s other group The Voidz. All are wildly different and, while in each you can hear elements of The Strokes (some are subtler than others, granted), having that space to experiment and try new things can only be a good thing. Either they’ll bring those new sounds and approaches into The Strokes, or they’ll return to their classic sound with fresh minds. The first option is intriguing, the second plain exciting.
Whether Albert’s comments before Hyde Park were a cynical ploy to sell more tickets or the God’s honest truth, if that London gig were to have been their last, they would have gone out on a high. If they take the energy and attitude of that performance into the studio, write and record as if it’s the last album they’ll do, then surely there’s no way it could be bad.