There isn’t any early-2000’s rock band that carries more baggage than The Strokes. Is This It remains a stone-cold classic to this day, and the band was so influential in their prime, that their subsequent career has been one of tragically diminishing returns. A large part of the appeal of their debut was its simplicity, which is something the band seemingly abandoned in their follow-ups. Perhaps the EP format is more suited to their current muses, so as to not overwhelm the listener, as happened to many on 2013’s Comedown Machine. As such, Future Present Past is their strongest release in some time, even if it makes one long for the youthful energy of Is This It.
The title of the record betrays its concept somewhat, as the 3 tracks (there’s also a fairly forgettable remix rounding out the tracklist) explore the past, present, and presumably, the future of The Strokes’ sound. Opener Drag Queen fulfils the “future” portion of the title, with it’s guitars affected to sound like New Order synths, and very-Joy Division bass line. The lyrics are overly serious, but fairly non-specific anti-authoritarianism – “try to sell the water / try to sell the air” – and feel perhaps like Julian Casablancas is trying a bit hard; a far remove from the disenfranchised apathy of his early work.
OBLIVIUS makes up the “present” component of the EP, with its muted guitar lines and grooving drums. It’s actually a lot of fun, and very easy to bop one’s head to. The chorus is filled with boisterous, shouted vocals, and should make for a great addition to the band’s festival lineup, even if it is very much more of the same style they’ve been releasing for a while. Threat of Joy, more so than anything the band has released since their debut, sounds laid back and relaxed. The vocal filtering is less aggressive, and the clean guitar is fun without being overbearing. It doesn’t sound at all energetic, but it does sound like the aged version of the kids who made Is This It.
At this point it’s fairly obvious The Strokes will never make a record of the same renown as their first masterpiece, and that will likely hang over any music that they release in the future, but Future Present Past is the first thing they’ve released in a long time that sounds like they’re not taking things quite so seriously. It’s a refreshing change, and whilst it’s nowhere near the standard of their best, it’s a pretty fun way to spend 15 minutes.