The Strokes - Future Present Past

by Oliver Rose

The first new Strokes material in three years, Future Present Past is a polarising listen. It comprises four tracks (three new songs and a remix of one of these tracks by drummer Fabrizio Moretti). Apparently, these tracks are indicative of phases in the band’s continually evolving sound – opener Drag Queen is an eclectic blend of new and old sounds, OBLIVIUS is fairly predictably Strokes-y, and Threat Of Joy is certainly, the most reminiscent here of Is This It.

It seems odd for a conflicted three-tracker such as this to have dropped out of the sky after such a long wait, though I won’t lie, it’s a welcome surprise. I’m not sure how this self-reflexivity would pan out across a selection that was any larger however, so I don’t think this EP is a very accurate precursor of what’s still to come. In fact, if it wasn’t well-known that the Strokes are working on new material still, I’d say this was pre-empting a greatest hits compilation before it was a new album. But anyway, the music…

Looking forward, it seems apt that the strongest candidate here is Drag Queen, which, when buffered against tracks alluding to the present and past, is made to seem all the more revolutionary. It’s a proper new wave track, with Peter Hook-like high-end bass guitar and plodding synthesisers; Strokes tropes of fuzzy vocals and shimmering guitar lines are retained however, breathing new new life into a vintage sound. The chorus is also typically massive – good luck getting it out of your head, like, ever. There’s also an absolutely disgusting guitar solo on this; it’s atonal and does literally everything you don’t want it to – for the rest of the track’s post-disco glitz, this is a genius no-wave counterbalance. It’s utterly gross and brilliantly excellent at the same time. Long live Nick Valensi.

There’s nowt wrong with OBLIVIUS, it’s just not as exciting. It’s a safe Strokes track – rollicking, Chic-like licks from Hammond, distorted vocals from Casablancas, a great hooky chorus, yadda yadda yadda. It’ll satiate us fans, but it’s a slightly-too-slow Comedown Machine outtake and nothing more. Threat of Joy is a bit meh (for me anyway) – it sounds like the kind of thing that a band on NME’s new music radar might’ve come out with in 2003, and it’s just a bit uninspired and uneventful. You could certainly be forgiven for thinking it’s a leftover from the turn of the century, in which case its either commendable that the Strokes can impersonate themselves so well, or annoyingly introverted that they’ve bothered to. The remix? I don’t know; seems like an unnecessary touch to me. Have a listen see what you think – I was distracted constantly by the run-time indicator; I just wanted to hear Drag Queen again.

Anywho, gripes are difficult to substantiate really when there’s new Strokes material to enjoy here, and even more still to come. Have a listen, if nothing else it’s fodder for the hype machine. Congratulations fans; here’s something to finally justify our wild anticipation. Just a shame it wasn’t a one track single – I’d be going totally nuts for it.