Release Date: Jun 3, 2016
Record label: Cult Records
Though the Strokes had been together over 15 years when they released Future Present Past, it still represented a few firsts for the band. Not only was it their first release on Julian Casablancas' Cult Records label, it was also their first EP since 2001's The Modern Age, the three-song set that sparked the bidding war that led to the band's contract with RCA. Freed from that deal, they sound more engaged and electrified on Future Present Past than they have in years.
The Strokes could do anything right now. They could open up a vintage shoppe in Queens. They could release an album full of Gun Club covers. They could retire and head upstate to knit baskets in Rochester. Really, they could do whatever pleases them. Now that they’re free from the five-album ….
Although the Strokes are of the same era as once-flashpoint NYC guitar bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, the National, and the Walkmen, they’ve become something their peers haven’t: classic rock. Tumble down enough comment threads, or check out the audience demographics at their infrequent shows—there are many listeners who idolize the Strokes as an actual first-generation 21st century NYC cool band, something like the aging, disheveled downtown '70s and '80s hipsters the band idolized in their youth. Becoming classic rock means a band can recycle their iconography without losing their edge, as far as casual and younger listeners are concerned.
With their idiosyncratic blend of spiraling guitar riffs, fuzzy vocals, and grimy insouciance, the Strokes are still tied to the early aughts, when their debut set a new standard for DIY rock ’n’ roll. So it’s fitting that the outfit’s first music since 2013’s “Comedown Machine” is a trip down memory lane. The four-track “Future Present Past” EP (really three songs, plus a dreamy remix) kicks off with “Drag Queen,” a humming, heaving beast of a track awash with swelling guitars, lazy synths, and marching drums.
There isn’t another band quite like The Strokes. Sure, your Radioheads can ace a stealth release better than most, but unless we missed a throng of butter-blond mop tops in the mid-90s, Thom Yorke and pals didn’t cause an entire generation to switch their wardrobes after a single drumbeat. Last year’s (European) dual assault of a Primavera headline spot and mammoth Hyde Park concert displayed unequivocally that there’s just as much - arguably more - love for The Strokes fifteen years after their breakthrough as on the days following the release of ‘Is This It’.
For [a]The Strokes[/a] – a band who often seem damned by what they do, what they don’t, and, above all, what they did 15 years ago – the past, present and future are loaded terms. The past has always been something to escape from, even as their fans clamour for a return to it. The present has been defined by so-so solo records and periodic, nostalgia-driven festival appearances.