Sound — 10
Julian Casablancas and mates are back in 2016 with their first material in 3 years. They've explored almost every sound possible by the band, and are very self aware of their strengths and weaknesses in doing so. People tend to have the impression that The Strokes "need" to go back to their "original" sound, but to them that's a part of their Past. They want to keep evolving as a band, and exploring every new idea that pops into their brains. I personally am very glad they keep evolving their sound, because music shouldn't be designed to please people. It should be created, and people should enjoy it for personal or technical reasons. There is a difference, and Julian is aware of it.
They've showcased all three aspects of their sound on their EP, "Future Present Past." "Drag Queen" presents us with a glimpse at the future of The Strokes. It suggests that Casablancas is looking for a mix between The Strokes and his side project The Voidz. Julian's high range translates quite beautifully with the instrumentation, not being overrun with distortion like many of The Voidz tracks. The end of the song is climatic to say the least, Julian's ability to transform his voice to match the theme and tone of the song is remarkable.
The second song is their Present, and it has the climatic build and explosion that we have grown to love with Julian. "Oblivious" is a cross between "One Way Trigger" and Julian's "River of Brakelights," incorporating the huge bellowing chorus that Julian provides perfectly. The verses are punchy, the pre chorus is melodic and the chorus is explosive. They appear to be very self aware of the sound of their songs, as this has been the general structure for The Strokes' sound over the past couple years. The first bridge sounds desperate, but in a great way. The solo builds off the desperation, and explodes into a broken scream. Metaphorically. Julian provides a beautiful falsetto to help build up the final explosion, and its incredibly rewarding to listen to. By far, one of my favorite Strokes songs.
The final song is "Threat of Joy," which is the Past part of the album. "Threat of Joy" is essentially what a song aimed at providing the fans with a long awaited "original Strokes" sounding song. It has all the classic elements, borrowing from "When It Started" in many ways. There isn't much to say about this song, other than you'll like it if your a fan of classic Strokes material.
Overall, the sound is obviously extremely self aware; and knows where its headed. The Strokes are exploring new regions of their sound, and it's exciting to know they have more material to come.
Lyrics — 8
Julian has always stuck to his known success formula with The Strokes, and that is romance. There is a touch of more diluted romance vibe in some of his songs, but most songs do tend to be directed at a romantic partner. With his departure into The Voidz, he was able to stretch his lyricism into a more political and reflective atmosphere. He applies that here on "Oblivious," and "Drag Queen" as well.
"Untame me, It's not my midnight yet
Act like a puppeting black sheep, for sake" - "Oblivious"
"I can not believe my eyes, Darling I can tell you lies
Got too close to make it" - "Drag Queen"
The lyrics aren't there for one to read, but are short emotional statements that help paint a picture with the music. Julian's lyrics have never been black and white, and that's what makes his a genius. He doesn't write lyrics, he let's the lyrics write them selves with the music. The lyrics on "Threat of Joy" are the same as the sound, quite classic. "Threat of Joy" is a completely opposite lyrical style from the other two tracks. Its extremely specific, and can be read and understood clear as day. Overall the lyrics are really well done, even being able to capture that early Strokes vibe with "Threat of Joy," and the open-for-interpretation style on "Drag Queen" and "Oblivious."
Overall Impression — 9
I was extremely excited to see that The Strokes were playing shows last year, and was able to catch a couple videos on YouTube, where they sounded phenomenal. Julian has really come into his own in the past couple years, and he seems much more confident in his vocal and musical abilities. This is nice to see, because he really is one of the most originally self aware composers, who can create the exact song that needed to be created. His passion for originally translates into this new EP, and Strokes fans will be happy to know that there is something for everyone on this EP alone. Fans of The Voidz can enjoy "Drag Queen" and "Obvlivious," where classic Strokes fans might lean towards the latter part of the album.
The Strokes will continue to be one of, if not the best creative rock band in circulation. No other band looks quite as forward, as The Strokes.