Six years after their last album The Strokes have finally announced a string of festival dates and teased the plotting of a 'global comeback'. However, with no hint of fresh music is it just a matter of time before fans grow tired of the same old set list?
It's a saying as old as time itself... You have your whole life to write your debut album and then a handful of months to write the second. Sit down long enough with The Strokes' discography and you'll realise they've suffered from this problem for the last fifteen years. The Strokes are not a bad band. They're just a band that set an impossibly high quality bar with 'Is This It' and have yet been unable to come close to topping it. When it comes to the indie rock movement of the 2000s The Strokes are not alone in this regard. Interpol, Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party have similarly struggled to match their early output and discouragingly continued down a confused artistic trajectory.
For the record, The Strokes have not fallen off in quite the same way as a band like Oasis, where the later albums are so disappointing they feel like poison in your veins. However, since their 2003 album 'Room on Fire' the New York quintet have left a lot to be desired. Unlike many of their old rivals and contemporaries, The Strokes are still capable of topping festival bills around the world, as evidenced by their recent announcement as Governor's Ball and Bilbao BBK headliners. They can still slip in and out of the public eye for years at a time, and slyly tease these global comebacks. However, they can't seem to back up such a return with a bold, new sound and set list for their fans.
Even in The Strokes' last batch of headline shows in 2016-7 'Is This It' still dominated the fare. Now don't get me wrong, 'Last Nite', 'The Modern Age' and 'Hard to Explain' are all incredible songs which can get a crowd going at the drop of a hat. However, the noticeable imbalance between old and new material in The Strokes' set lists does convey a lack of confidence, or just interest, in the band's latest musical efforts. By point of comparison, Arctic Monkeys who ironically opened their sixth album with the line 'I just wanted to be one of the Strokes' will play a maximum of two songs from their iconic debut album in today's shows. The Strokes are clearly leaning too heavily on past successes which is a shame, because the band is full of intelligent people with a great deal of intelligent ideas. Guitarists Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi and bassist Nikolai Fraiture have all actively pursued their own side projects in recent years, while Julian Casablancas' work with his second band The Voidz remains more interesting and experimental than any of the last three Strokes albums.
A great album in 2019 is not out of reach for The Strokes. If the band can successfully regroup before their summer shows and bring their best ideas neatly together we may soon be listening to one of the greatest returns to form in living memory. More importantly, a new sound would revive the band's jaded live experience and give the fans something different to cheer for. This year needs to be the year The Strokes give us something major, not just the dribs and drabs they dished out with 2016's lacklustre 'Future Present Past' EP. Here's to hoping they pull it off, because if there's one band that deserves a true musical comeback it's The Strokes.