Upon hearing the mundane misfortune of 2013’s Comedown Machine, I couldn’t help but wonder how such a decline had occurred in The Strokes. It seemed inconceivable that this was the same band who authored one of the most outstanding debut albums in contemporary music; a record responsible for the birth of some of todays most popular rock bands. Is This It?’s impact went far beyond music, and continues to be held as the record that defined an entire indie culture. First Impressions of Earth had its issues, but doesn’t necessarily get the credit it deserves for its driven attempt to expand on the band’s initial sound. The divisive response from its audience resulted in a hiatus that The Strokes haven’t truly recovered from, as their relevancy continues to decrease with each release.
There’s a lot at stake with their new EP Future Present Past. Though there remains a sizeable fanbase, The Strokes don’t have many chances left to convince the rest of us that they actually know what they’re doing. The band haven’t had a precise, definitive sound since Room on Fire in 2003, and their sonic experimentations haven’t been robust enough to suggest a clear musical direction. For over a decade now, The Strokes have been struggling to spawn a sound that successfully sequels the iconic musical makeup of their early works. The classic Strokes tone—once a wonderful thing—is now a cloud that continues to hang over them.
Unfortunately, Future Present Past inspires little confidence. Whilst there are a couple of decent tunes, there are no signs of progress in the bands search for a sound. What we have is a satisfying rehash of a classic Strokes song, an admittedly ambitious attempt of a ‘new’ Strokes song (accompanied by a frankly futile remix), and a drab Julian Casablancas tune covered with a false Strokes sheen. Although the progressive nature of “Oblivious” is admirable, “Threat of Joy” shows that, after all these years, the band are still most comfortable when on familiar ground. It’s a rather infectious throwback, unfortunately suggesting that their best chance of a rewarding revival is to look backwards rather than ahead.
So what exactly does Future Present Past tell us? Well, nothing new. The band still haven’t worked out how to successfully broaden their prospects beyond the classic Strokes sound. Whether this is a standalone release or a prelude to a new album, the situation remains largely unchanged. Stylistically disjointed and lazily comprised, The Strokes even manage to make a 4-track EP a cluttered mess. Something to tick off the checklist, at least.