Updated: Nov 8, 2020
Devastatingly beautiful. Closing ballad Ode To The Mets marks a heavy, hazy end to record The New Abnormal. The release of The Strokes’ sixth album was shared when the world was in a bizarre and frightening state, the title coincidently summing up people’s sentiments at the time. However, It was on a breezy New Year’s Eve, back in 2019, where Ode was the golden choice in New York to announce that a new LP was imminent. Anticipation ensued for all. But especially for those walking among us who have followed the band’s musical voyage with profound interest and investment.
On the whole, the album was warmly received by critics and adored by fans. Collaborative composing and trademark writing signified a new dawn mingling with maturity, yet still had that unattainable coolness that the five will always posses and others could only dream of exuding. Placing Ode as the closer did raise debate. You see, we know this has happened with Strokes’ numbers before; they’re smart like that. Although it may appear to some as a slightly lacklustre, when the dust settles, and the depth reached, it all becomes clear how valuable it is.
It was on the 24th of June, 2020, when there came the announcement of two surprises. As always, the five are either savvy marketers or feel it’s one of those annoying extra chores that must be done to promote music. I have a hunch it’s the latter. So, we watched our new favourite comedy on YouTube 5guys talking about things they know nothing about, bringing much joy and light relief to us during lockdown. Expanding the family for this episode, a rare chat with producer Gordon Raphael and Colin Jost unfolded.
Another sweet gift was the video for Ode to The Mets directed by industry giant, nay industry genius, and previous Strokes collaborator Warren Fu. You see the name and instantly know you are on to something; any music video fans watching his full body of work will appreciate it. From Daft Punk’s Get Lucky to Mark Ronson’s Bang Bang Bang, you will notice his epic style and innovative use of imagery. A top recommendation would be to soak all ten minutes up of The Voidz’ Human Sadness, behaving more like a short film layered with hard-hitting crossovers of abrasive footage and storytelling.
Initially, the plan for this video was not to be animated, but well, we all know why. Warren never physically met any of the animators but was given the nod from the boys that he was free to take this where he wanted. The whole six minutes and forty-eight seconds reverts to childhood, as things often do. I mean that, in the sense of being a child from the 80s, it resonated on a cosmic level. I had an incredibly different upbringing to the five, but there are plenty of things in our youth that would have been the same, exactly, which invites everyone to drift through the eight chapters of the track alone but together.
Just like the song, the footage fools you into thinking that it will be a modern electronic number as an arcade video plays, but as the camera pans out, the mood changes. We commence in the Ancient Era under some prehistoric ribs where we are perched on a vehicle facing backward, looking into the past. A highlight occurs here where the dusty images turn black and white and then are suddenly saturated in colour at the very same point Julian requests Drums please Fab’. Legend has it that Fab missed his cue once so Julian asked politely not believing it would be left in the song, but was convinced otherwise.
Cars are the focus in the Street chapter amongst a backdrop of a fiery sky and what seems to be the Big Apple. It starts to dawn that there are no people in video in a dream-like Inception sort of world. Chapter School heads to the gym bearing the Mets’ colours of blue and orange. On a banner that reads Class of 69, we see a baseball-related Easter egg, which is also sprinkled throughout. We slowly swing round and are now front-facing gazing at the trophies that could be for sport, but also for all the band has achieved. They morph onto a chess game, which the music industry can be.
Now At The Door for chapter Toys, featuring a range of retro playthings, the Rubix cube stems from the line ‘The Rubix cube isn't solving for us’. There’s a grand anime style explosion showing technological advancement with vibrant gold and orange colours. Julian waiting on the train platform after the Mets lost the 2016 Wild Card Game to the San Francisco Giants was the inspiration for the song, but in the broader sense, it seems to be a reflection of sad occasions in life. And that is fine. Pasts are colourful. And staying on that theme, here is the tear-inducing part for the Speakeasy Chapter. Traditional flock wallpaper is home to an array of old fashioned photographs. The nostalgic glance ends with a photograph of the boys' from Nick’s collection.
Starting to sink as the tune soars with emotion, In Underwater, the images disappear to empty frames. What has passed has passed: The old ways at the bottom, of the ocean now has swallowed’. Drifting by cars and signs, it’s as if has the Street chapter has been submerged in water. Those days have gone. We end on the silvery Moon, Earth in the background for our last chapter, where the arcade machine at the beginning is now flashing Restart - to the tune of Take Me To The Ball Game from Frank Sinatra - which sums up the emotion behind The New Abnormal.
Every time I write about The Strokes, it manifests into an essay; there’s just so much to say. However, it is unquestionably an essay that is a pleasure to write. The way the collaborations in the video slotted together in harmony is a testament to Fu’s direction and the calibre of the creative team. It’s not obvious; there’s not anything desperately sad to observe, but it has captured a retrospective aura and sense of melancholy, as has the song. It’s a perfect way to end the album bringing me to a perfect way to finish this piece.
Article by Beverley Knight