The Strokes – Future Present Past EP (Cult Records)

the strokes future present past ep
The Strokes – Future Present Past EP
Cult Records (2016)

Whoomp, there it is. A brand new Strokes EP. Future Present Past. And typically, they’re way too cool for commas. To be honest, I hadn’t been paying attention and this new EP caught me off guard. Last I’d heard, frontman Julian Casablancas and guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. had spun off in different directions – and there was Little Joy.

First single “Drag Queen” kicks off with an unfamiliar, low-tuned-sounding ’80s rumble. Almost Joy Division-like, over a simple, yet hypnotic Fabrizio Moretti beat. But the fruitier sound the band perfected on 2013’s Comedown Machine soon washes over. Casablancas sounds different, though. Future-gazing. At times, duelling with himself schizophrenically. And for a second, he dips into pioneering Alvin and the Chipmunks, helium-crooner territory. He’s all over the place, but as usual, everything he tries works perfectly.

The second track, and second single, OBLIVIUS – this time they’re too cool for proper spelling – instantly sounds more familiar. The most striking thing, though, is how accomplished and at ease with themselves they all sound. The playing’s perfect but the impression is effortless. Indifferent. Yet confident and self-assured. Casablancas’ vocals really impress towards the end, as he hits a supersonic kind of warble.

“Threat of Joy,” on the other hand, sounds much lighter than the first two tracks. More Is This It with sunshine than Angles and Comedown Machine. Even Casablancas seems to step back from his broodier, mysterious, more avant-garde new persona in favour of a back-to-basics approach.

The final song is Fabrizio Moretti’s remix of “OBLIVIUS.” A strange way to end the EP, really. Almost like they disagreed about how it should sound. If anything, the remix is much more “future” Strokes. Spookier and more saturated. The vocals are more repressed and there’s some weightier synths and alien sounds to replace the tropical guitars. It’s a taster, really. And hopefully there’s more to come.

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