The Strokes, once one of the world’s premier indie rock acts, are not done and dusted yet. After three great albums and quite a long hiatus, their triumphant re-entry with ‘Under the Cover of Darkness’ had brought rock at its best back to the radio. In 2013, though, the band did what some may have thought impossible: they put out a pretty bad album.
When assessing the new EP, Future Present Past, initial signs were also not too promising, even though after Comedown Machine, an album which made 2011’s Angles look excellent, it could have been worse. ‘Drag Queen’ lacks passion and the classic Strokes edginess. Although shadows of said ingredients are, in a way, probably present, the results are just not the same, especially when Casablancas’ vocal sounds as if it is probably, like one or more guitars here, altered by effects for at least some of the time. This actually makes the singing sound less appealing or effective.
One of ‘OBLIVIUS’’ guitar riffs is greatly reminiscent of Mediterranean dance music, and at the end of the track Casablancas wails like a traditional Asian singer. The second song is something of an improvement over ‘Drag Queen’, but still lacks much excitement beyond the aforementioned interesting groove. Morretti’s remix of the song sounds very similar but ultimately inferior. Basically, it is quite a poor remix and is not adventurous enough.
Although the second track is the best composition here, the greatest part of this EP is probably the pretty ending of ‘Threat of Joy’, the song most reminiscent of The Strokes’ more chilled sounds that formed a significant part of their classic albums and resulted in tracks like ‘Someday’, ‘Under Control’ and ‘Evening Sun’.
All in all, despite their flaws, the songs show some promise that The Strokes have escaped the Comedown Machine and are on their ways back to previous heights or somewhere not that far from there, even if the EP is certainly not a “perfect blend of their old and new sound”. The invention and attitude are still there, and some elements here explore territory previously unchartered by the band. It is just a shame that Albert Hammond Jr.’s recent solo material sounds more like the brilliant, older Strokes work than The Strokes do as a collective. Thankfully, though, this is probably not it.
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