After announcing themselves onto the world stage in 2001 with their prosperous debut album Is This It, The Strokes have been on quite the musical journey. With a hard act to follow, the New York City quintet have never quite managed to hit the musical heights of their previous projects; often owing to attempts at switching their trademark sound onto further horizons as shown with the less successful First Impressions of Earth. However recently, the release of their new EP Future Past Present, in typical Strokes fashion, grabbed the world’s attention with a deal of surprise. With many questioning when the next album would arrive, the launch of an EP especially – their first since The Modern Age in 2001 – was out of the ordinary.
Although offering no more explanation as to whether a new album is on the way, the EP is surely a refreshing sight to lifelong fans who hate to be kept waiting. The songs found on the EP are reflective of the title; ‘Drag Queen’ representing the future, ‘OBLIVIUS’ the present and ‘Threat of Joy’ the past. These titles are not just reflective in terms of lyrics, but also sound.
The lyrics chronicle all the emotions that teenagers in the early 2000s relate to
‘Drag Queen’ is a strange listen, where Casablancas seemingly takes the perspective of different people, often in the form of a dialogue with different voices. Although the people involved are unclear, it seems reflective of the title, with a ‘Drag Queen’ taking up multiple personas as lyricised; the trippy music video also doesn’t help in explaining. The overall sound is slightly downbeat for a Strokes song, but the supposed ‘new’ sound is fascinating and complete with a disparate guitar solo. The vocals of Casablancas are prominent, even behind the signature voice effect, and complete the supposed glimpse into the future well.
Far more upbeat, ‘OBLIVIUS’ is a self-narration of Casablancas’ return to the group from his solo-work, and the return to winning ways for the band. The lyrics chronicle previous subjects for which Casablancas drew upon, such as angst, alienation and all the emotions that teenagers in the early 2000s could relate to. This track is certainly what the loyal fans have been waiting for, a dabble into the trademark sound that drew so much praise in the early days of the band, with catchy guitar hooks and faultless guitar solos encapsulating the song with ease. The overriding theme of the present, most notably the bands current goings on, but also with social commentary which has been staple of The Strokes diet in recent releases. The remix by drummer Fabrizio Moretti found at the end of the EP offers a slightly eerie alternative to the song, but with the same appeal as the original.
The past, so often a dominant topic when discussing The Strokes, is captured by ‘Threat of Joy’ as the final song on the EP. The track begins with Casablancas speech similar to the start of ‘New York City Cops’, commentating on how domesticated the lives of the band have become since the early days of their music. As the band have grown up, they all have different lives compared to how they started; wives, girlfriends, houses and what not. The lyrics take the view of hindsight, telling of the problems the members have faced and how their lives are different now they have become all grown up. The distinct rhythm guitar of Albert Hammond Jr. is evident all over this song, a track that is a trip down memory lane and certainly an ode to previous music. ‘Threat of Joy’ is a personal highlight of the EP for me. As a nostalgic Strokes fan, who always seems to compare new releases to their old stuff, this track would not feel out of place on ‘Is This It’- high praise indeed.
Overall, the EP is an exciting listen, although slightly mixed. Some elements of the songs seem verging on repetitive but overall, the reflection and return to their old sound is certainly welcome and a refreshing listen. Even though we may not be getting an album soon, Future Present Past is definitely an enjoyable experience, and should keep The Strokes fan base happy and looking forward to what more the band have to offer.