Future Present Past is the first release by New York City garage rock band The Strokes in three years. Now their second EP (the first being their 2001 debut The Modern Age), it is a huge milestone for the band. Since 2011, The Strokes have been toeing the line of audience’s favour once they regrouped post-hiatus to release their fourth album Angles. This marked the start of The Strokes’ later period, a clear deviation from their raw, gritty, calculated garage rock that fans fell for (and held onto with a vengeance). Their fifth album, Comedown Machine (2013), was an even larger step away from their early sound (i.e. Is This It), and while many diehard fans continued to follow the band’s artistic journey, others wondered whether The Strokes had lost their touch.
With all this in mind, it’s awesome that Future Present Past was released as an EP rather than another full-length record. The Strokes know that fans have been overwhelmed and alienated by their drastic sonic shifts. With this EP, they assert who they’ve been and what they will become by showing off the best of their past, present, and future musical ideas.
“Drag Queen “opens Future Present Past with a self-assured and mature sound. The heavy-hitting drums, bass & guitar interplay, Julian Casablancas’ conversational singing, a feeling of forward motion and diving into something nostalgic, and the powerful buildup give this track a full sound and rich story. It is The Strokes of the future, confident and contemplative, and they own it.
“OBLIVIUS” represents The Strokes of the here and now. A phenomenal track on its own, it is easily the strongest of the EP. Its introduction is active and upbeat, easygoing yet mathematical and featuring some unexpected hues. The pre-chorus does little to ease listeners into the completely contrasting chorus, and yet this works in the song’s favor. Casablancas’ strained vocals (“What side are you standing on?”) coupled with the edgy and expansive harmonic scheme reach deep down into the listener’s heart. Cheerful, forlorn, yearning, and nostalgic, this current version of The Strokes simultaneously ponders the deep questions and shrugs them off. Fabrizio Moretti’s remix is equally listenable, its slower tempo and 80’s-esque/electronic elements inspiring different feelings but making the song sound more cohesive.
Finally, “Threat of Joy”—from the get go, it’s the most quintessentially Strokes-sounding track. It’s not texturally dense like its predecessors, it follows a song structure similar to Strokes classics, the instrumentals are doing their normal thing, Casablancas’ vocals are reminiscent of earlier tracks, and the general vibe of older Strokes records pervades the music. As a standalone, “Threat of Joy” is not particularly memorable because of this, but it works well as a time capsule of the band’s past. All original fans of The Strokes can breathe a sigh of relief—they’re back and better than ever.
-Review written by Cyrenah Smith