Future. Present. Past. Those are the three words which make up the title of The Strokes’ latest musical venture, a four (three, excluding a remix) track EP, only the band’s second since 2001’s The Modern Age, which is sure to delight old and new fans alike. The title itself is catchy enough, but when you realise the meaning behind it, your fondness for it grows greatly, with each word representing a song; “Drag Queen” refers to the “future”, “OBLIVIUS” – the “present”, and “Threat of Joy” – the “past”. How cool is that?
Kicking off proceedings is Drag Queen, the track of the future. It’s weird, it’s wacky, and it really is quite wonderful. It’s a different kind of sound from The Strokes in a similar but completely different way to 2013’s Comedown Machine. The synthesisers take centre stage alongside Julian Casablancas unmistakable, distorted, rambling vocals. The guitar work and drums are on point, as you’d expect, and you’re really not quite sure what to make of it; you just know it’s cool, it’s funky, and you can’t help but love how it sounds. If this is how The Strokes of the future will sound, you’ve got very good reason to be excited.
Next up is OBLIVIOUS, the song for the present. It’s a much more traditional Strokes-esque sound, something you might expect to find on First Impressions of Earth, or Angles. It’s got a really great sound, with much more guitar work, and as you’d expect Julian steals the show in typical fashion culminating with an excellent, catchy chorus, where the whole band comes together so succinctly to create a spectacular sound. The riffs courtesy of Nick Valensi are tight, electric wonders that make this truly a rock track.
Finally, there’s the tune of days gone by, Threat of Joy. Past. If you’d had me listen to this track completely unknowingly, I’d assume it was a bonus track from Is This It, that I’d somehow managed to never hear. What I’m saying is that Threat of Joy is so vintage Strokes. It’s everything that made me fall in love with them and their debut album. It’s rocky, it’s poppy, it’s new wave. 15 years on since that first LP, and The Strokes can still do that Indie Rock sound so well, and Casablancas’ vocals do not miss a beat, and harmonise with Valensi and Moretti’s respective instruments perfectly. Call me a sucker for the old stuff, but for me this is the highlight of the album. It’s an absolute treat, and reminds me of how I felt listening to Is This It for the first time.
Rounding out the album is a remix of OBLIVIOUS by drummer Fabrizio Moratti, and whilst I’m not usually one for remixes, this one is more than passable. It manages to change the song enough that it’s different, without completely butchering it. A nice addition onto an already highly enjoyable concept EP.
– Kieran Griffiths