After a lengthy break, The Strokes put out their first sample of new music since 2013’s “Comedown Machine” with their early summer release of the “Future Present Past” EP. With their nonchalant nature, The Strokes have slowly cemented their position in the rock music world over the years. This has allowed them to churn out classic Strokes tuneage, which avid fans then proceed to rabidly gobble up. While other bands that once performed alongside The Strokes at the turn of the century have faded into the background, the Strokes continue to mess around with their signature sound and generate ravenous crowds at their sparse festival appearances. Though surpassing the bar set by their historic debut release, “Is This It,” is nigh impossible, The Strokes have never failed to produce enjoyable alternative rock that fans of every music sector can groove to. Some might write off “Future Present Past” as nothing more than The Strokes attempting to stay on the music scene in some fashion, while others will look at it a sample of great things to come from the band. For all we know, both of these theories could hold true.
“Future Present Past” gives us a soundbite from each of The Strokes’ phases, starting the journey with “Threat of Joy," which gleans from the early garage rock era that was kicked off by their only other EP, “The Modern Age.” There’s something alluring about the bored and relaxed nature of Julian Casablancas’ voice as he drawls through verses on the piece. It doesn’t possess the same grungy and dirty sound that their original work did, but instead calls to mind a more refined version. Despite its less gritty nature though, it’s still enough to transport us back to a time when listening to The Strokes was just starting to become cool. Perhaps The Strokes actually care a little more than they’d like us to believe. The next track, “OBLIVIUS,” is the most stereotypical Strokes song of the EP. It opens with hopping guitar riffs that sound like they are being produced by a synth, when in fact it is actually a guitar. This foolery by Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. is definitely not uncommon in The Strokes cache of tracks. In the songs chorus, Casablancas shouts over and over, “What side are you standing on?” Perhaps he’s questioning the audience about their willingness to stay on board with the band as they sail toward a foggy future. A remix of the song by bandmate Fab Moretti is also include on the EP as well, and it’s worth a listen.
Lastly, the “future” of The Strokes is heard on the track, “Drag Queen." The song is supposed to represent a more mature outlook for the band, perhaps as they leave a bit of their rambunctious rebel nature behind. “Drag Queen” opens with the uncharacteristic thud of a drum, which is then followed by a cacophony of classic Strokes guitar play, while Casablancas sings the parts of two clashing voices with distinct personalities. The whole piece is not very cohesive, and it seems like it flies off of the rails at points, but it still manages to reach the finish line with a Strokes-ian flourish.
Overall, “Future Present Past” gives Strokes fans just enough to stave their hunger for the time being, but still shrouds the future of the band in mystery. The Strokes have always been a swirling enigma, effortlessly donning different guises during their five album stint with the RCA record label. Signing with Julian Casablancas’ own Cult Records label afterwards, the release of this EP on the label simultaneously lets listeners in on where the band might be headed, while also making them extremely unsure of their next move. Setting all of this aside, everyone can agree that The Strokes have separated themselves from the pack of other bands in the rock scene, giving them a sort of immortality. They are free to do as they please and experiment with new sound, because there will always be a following who is eager to see what happens next.
Tracks: “OBLIVIUS,” “Threat of Joy”
If you like: The Arctic Monkeys, Interpol, The Fratellis