It’s been five days since The Strokes announced their return. Five days since Future Present Past EP was put up on the Cult Records website. Five days that I’ve taken to mentally prepare myself to listen to it. And, after five days, here I am, sitting inconspicuously in my living room, listening to the EP and trying to bring words to the surface. Trying desperately to type out sentences so that I can formulate some form of review. Despite my best efforts, I feel a little frozen. And, despite that fact, I am somehow going to put thoughts to paper for you, because if anything deserves to be shared a million and one times over, it’s the comeback of The Strokes.
Three tracks feels big. I think most of us were waiting for a single and for an eventual album, but for some reason an unannounced, three-track EP feels like so much more than I could ever ask for. And the way my heart beat fast and my breathing quickened when I first heard the announcement would suggest that my previous statement is undeniably true. I wasn’t nearly old enough to be around for the band’s Golden Age, but being in the thick of their return is something I feel incredibly grateful for.
The EP begins swiftly. There’s no ease into it, the band is in full-force right off the bat, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. “Drag Queen” is gritty and hazy and it feels like you’re listening to a muffled version of it, which perhaps ties into the social criticism that the track is laced with. The chorus is an obvious reference to the eagerness of capitalists to make money in whichever way they’re able to, but the song also includes metaphors and lyrics of fighting wars that were never meant for us and escaping from uncomfortable situations as soon as physically possible. I could probably analyze it for hours and come up with thousands of possible societal critiques, and I appreciate the fact that a band as influential as The Strokes is willing to be up front about very real issues that our world faces – issues that we’re all in the middle of, but don’t necessarily speak up about.
“OBLIVIOUS” is my favourite track of the album, and it is aptly titled given its content. The social critique continues, but this time it takes the form of a protest or a plea. The track is part story and part wake-up call, a song that tells of an elite individual in the midst of the realization that money doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness. The chorus is yearning, and Julian’s vocals strain as he seems to beg the individual to question where he stands in terms of his social and political positions. The track feels similar to a lot of what the band has done in the past, and I appreciate the familiarity of the melody and vocal delivery while the words are undeniably refreshing and important.
The final track is “Threat of Joy,” a song that is woven with fear and struggle and sacrifice. Perhaps making reference to the band members’ previous struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, Julian details efforts to break free of the confinements of addiction and seek a better way of life. The track also outlines sacrifices made by those involved with addicted individuals, which is a side of the story that is not often heard or acknowledged. The song wouldn’t be out of place on an album by The Velvet Underground, and it really offers a chance to hear the parallels between Julian’s vocals and those of Lou Reed. If you line each of the EP’s songs up with the future, the present, and the past, it’s plain to see how this track fits easily with the latter.
The Strokes have made the kind of return that deserves the cheesy “long-awaited” catch line and thousands of articles and reviews written by news outlets and amateur bloggers from across the globe. This is an EP that deserves attention, and not only because the band that many deem the saviours of rock n’ roll is back and better than ever, but because they’ve created songs that are beyond relevant in today’s society. Future Present Past EP is a landmark sort of release, something that feels like a fresh start, a blank page, or a new chapter. I can’t wait to hear what’s coming next from a band that is so thoroughly adored by so many.