Neutral Magazine

Culture & Society

Exploration into culture and society allows Neutral to provide its readers with a deeper analysis of the world around us.

Neutral Magazine + Culture & Society

How Doctor Who can guide us through this crisis

By Amy Glasman |

‘Know that in this time of upset and concern… that for two hours, we all sat together, worldwide, the Whovian fanfamily, and supported each other, through social media, watching this, connecting… It’s okay to be upset, it’s okay to be sad, but know we’ll get through this, because we’re all looking out for each other.’

John Barrowman, who portrays one of the show’s recurring characters, Captain Jack, welled up as he spoke to his phone camera on his sofa, watching — together with scores of people around the world — Doctor Who episodes 'The Stolen Earth' and 'Journey’s End', streamed on 19th April as part of “Corona times” entertainment for Doctor Who fans. During the watchalong organised by Emily Cook, the show’s former writer Russell T Davies (RTD to his fans) who created the two episodes and actors David Tennant (the 10th Doctor), Catherine Tate, Freema Agyeman, Noel Clark and others, along with Barrowman, live tweeted, reminiscing about old times.

By the end, I was more than welling up; I was crying. I was surprised at how moved I felt, and equally surprised that I wasn’t the only one. There is something about this era of Doctor Who; about Russell T Davies’ writing, the acting, the music, the story, that has an emotional depth that sadly has not been matched since Davies’ departure in 2010.

The two streamed episodes were chosen well. They have always been THE episodes. In them, everyone is together for the first and the last time — all the 10th Doctor’s companions, past and present. The moment when they’re standing around the TARDIS console and celebrating saving the world feels like a family reunion, one I’ve always felt a part of. What struck me as I was watching along and feverishly checking people’s live tweets, was how much we all felt like a global family, standing around this console, catching up, laughing, crying, and hugging. As Nicholas Pegg – the operator and voice of the Daleks – tweeted, referencing Sarah Jane’s beautiful line: ‘The Doctor really does have the biggest family on Earth, doesn’t he? I think tonight has proved that.’

The imminent end of the world has never been so sickeningly plausible, and any non-Whovians who saw ‘DETONATE THE REALITY BOMB’ trending on Twitter may have been a touch concerned, but not all that surprised. Except that instead of aliens, it’s humans who apparently have the capacity to bring about the end of the world. It is our greed, our disregard for nature and other humans, our constant othering that has caused the current calamity. But now that we are faced with it, whether through the ‘Subwave Network’ or Zoom, we find it more possible than ever before to overcome separation and feel more connected.

During RTD’s era, Doctor Who made a mark by exploring – but not lecturing on – what it meant to be human. It allowed us to see ourselves through the eyes of the Doctor, in particular our ability to be both ‘fantastic’ and brutal. In the 10th Doctor’s first episode, The Christmas Invasion, he pleads with invading aliens to spare the human race: ‘look at these people… these human beings; consider their potential. From the day they arrive on the planet, blinking, step into the sun…’ But when Prime Minister, Harriet Jones orders that the retreating aliens are killed, the change in the Doctor is sudden: ‘I should’ve told them to run… because the monsters are coming — the human race!’ Humans also break the Doctor’s — two — hearts and show themselves to be, in the words of the Master, the ‘greatest monsters of them all’ after a future humankind returns to present-day Earth to slaughter their ancestors. In April’s streamed episode, Journey’s End, Martha is prepared to end the world by detonating 25 nuclear warheads because ‘the suffering of the human race is so great…’ Luckily, this doesn’t transpire and the Doctor reminds us that there is always hope. Giving up is never an option.

Monsters, of course, are distinguished by a complete lack of empathy, just like the Daleks and the Cybermen, which allows them to be ruthless killing machines. To them, humans are weak because they have emotions. But the Doctor sees that this is, in fact, their strength. Despite all the violence he knows we are capable of, the Doctor never gives up on humankind, because he knows our real brilliance comes from our ability to feel a spectrum of emotions. Crucially, he knows and hopes that our ability to empathise will always stop us from becoming real monsters. We must let the Doctor guide us out of these desperate times by collectively unlearning the social construction of separation and instead choosing connection. Connection doesn’t just feel good; it’s our only hope for survival. The Doctor would feel deeply disappointed to learn that while 265 million people in the Third World are in danger of starving because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the richest corporations and their executives are being ‘rescued’ by Donald Trump’s government with hand-outs worth millions of dollars. Our choice is well represented in the two episodes: we can choose to destroy each other, or we can choose connection and hope.

If you thought Doctor Who was a wacky children’s sci-fi show, think again. It’s really about us.

Neutral Magazine + Culture & Society

The Strokes: Out With The Old and In With The New Abnormal

By George Taylor |

The Strokes are a funny band for me. Their best work is undeniably their first album. Is This It (2001) reinvigorated rock at a time of crisis and paved the way for the garage rock revival. However, I never want them to go back to that sound. If they were to replicate their early stuff it would be disingenuous; an unauthentic attempt to recapture the glory days. Put simply, The Strokes are no longer the same five piece they were when they first picked up their instruments, which begs the question: who are The Strokes now?

Their follow-up albums to their seminal debut were never bad, in fact most of them are very good. Their sophomore album Room on Fire (2003) is the closest they got to striking the same chord as their debut and 2013’s Comedown Machine is an overlooked gem. While the quality was always there, the sense of being a band was not. Many of the recording sessions of their later albums were plagued by arguments and were so intense that Julian would record his vocals separately to the band on their fourth album Angles (2011).

Which brings us to now. Amid a global pandemic, The Strokes release their sixth album, the aptly titled The New Abnormal. At nine tracks in length, the album already feels less messy than their 2006 album First Impressions of Earth. This also allows more time to be spent on individual tracks, giving the band a greater creative freedom for ideas to be fully explored. The album art is a painting by New York street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The painting, Bird on Money, suggests an exciting venture for the band due to its bright colours and surrealist composition.

The first track, The Adults Are Talking, establishes the tone of the album within the first five seconds: a looped drum machine before a distinct Strokes riff bursts into the listener’s ear. This sets the precedent that The Strokes are taking all their best previous elements and injecting them into this album. From their signature guitar tones to their more eighties influenced songs. Then at the twenty-five second mark the music stops, and Julian sings his first line. Like the first sip from a cup of tea after a long day, Julian’s vocals are warm and welcomed. He seeps onto the track with a whisper-like quality, his voice the cleanest it has ever sounded, a benefit to having Rick Rubin producing the album. The song glides at a groovy pace, with catchy choruses and trademark guitar interplay between Albert and Nick. The track culminates in Julian’s falsetto which has greatly improved since the previous album. The song fades out and we hear the first of some studio chatter, segueing into the next song.

Selfless is a fine follow up, particularly noteworthy for mature lyrics and beautiful vocals, especially on the chorus. That being said, it is not one of my favourite tracks on the album, mainly due to Rubin’s production. Yes, I know, I just praised him for the clean audio. Yet on this song, and in some other places on the album, it feels slightly too compressed. This results in the instruments not having enough space to breathe and the track feeling slightly claustrophobic. Still, the song works well within the context of the album and is by no means bad.

Up next are two of the singles released prior to the album. Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus is arguably the most eighties tinged track with its pulsating synths and zipping electronic guitar. The song certainly picks up the pace and is one of the more radio-friendly tracks on the album. This is one to be played loud with its fist-in-the-air chorus and tantalising verses. Bad Decisions continues the quick pace and is the closest the band comes to sounding like their younger selves. Thankfully, this homage is not overbearing due in part to the eighties sounds that complete this rocker. The song begins with a New Order inspired riff and continues the nods to that era with a chorus that sounds exactly like Dancing with Myself (the band don’t hide this though, as Billy Idol gets a writing credit). The song carries a sense of irony, for it sounds so much like early Strokes but the lyrics suggest the band are tired of sounding that way. While it may please the fans that desperately want early Strokes back, if they dig a little deeper, they may find that the band are rejecting them. I respect the band for staying true to themselves instead of making an entire album of songs with this sound. The next track is Eternal Summer, which has grown on me a lot since first listen. It can be divided into two distinct parts: the pleasant-sounding falsetto verses and the attention grabbing and abrupt choruses. At first, I found this jarring, but upon further listens I realised that this song acts as a transition of sorts. It carries on the fun and upbeat sound of the first half of the album, but also hints at a darker, sadder side of things to come. The song is a further testament to Julian’s vocal ability. He ranges from falsetto, his usual croon and shouting all in one song. The New Abnormal features his best singing yet and this song is a perfect representation of that.

Then we get to the absolute highlight of the album: At The Door. The song is such an achievement for how simple it is. Being the first single released, I was initially unsure about the track due to its lack of powerful riffs and pounding drums. But every subsequent listen has had me fall more in love with it to the point where I now consider it one of the band’s best. For most of its runtime, the song is just Julian and a synth. The instrumentation feels other worldly and wouldn’t be out of place in a sci-fi film. His voice is like velvet as he sings heart-breaking lyrics such as “sinking like a stone/use me like an oar/to get yourself to shore”. The song comes from a dark place as it deals with themes of depression and loneliness, representing a maturity found throughout the album. The final minute is pure feeling, leaving you empty in the best way possible. You question your own futility as the track floats you into the abyss.

Why Are Sunday’s So Depressing and Not The Same Anymore continue the mature themes. Both songs deal with nostalgia and looking back. They sound somewhat like older Strokes songs but slowed down. A faster tempo for either of these songs would have been appreciated. The songs would still have enough new elements to avoid sounding like a pastiche of their earlier stuff. I can envision the more casual listener zoning out around here due to the pace being slower than the first few songs of the album. They require a bit more from the listener than other songs, due to their lyrics and slower pace. Upon multiple listens I find them to be important components of the album, whereas initially, I was not too enthralled by either. It is also between these songs that another studio chatter occurs. I really enjoyed these little snippets. They are reassuring that the band had fun making this album, as opposed to their previous releases. The band finally seem passionate again and it’s a joy to see.

Finally, the album draws to a close with Ode to The Mets. It begins quite stripped back until Julian asks Fab to come in with the drums, a humorous moment in an otherwise emotional song. The song adds a nice finality to the album and even makes call-backs through reuse of the chord progression from Brooklyn Bridge. It builds up to the final verse which is an explosion of Julian’s finest vocals and swelling instrumentation. Julian sings bitterly how the old times are gone, perhaps a statement summarising the band. Regardless, it is the climax of the album and it feels warranted.

The New Abnormal is 'The Strokes' best album in years. While not as immediate as their debut, the band show a new maturity in song writing and comradery. For the first time in a while, the band seem to be enjoying themselves and it makes for a much more enjoyable listen. Julian is at the top of his game vocally as he sings some of his best lyrics yet. The rest of the band are tight and as skilful as ever. While the album is occasionally held back by some production choices and tonally similar songs, it challenges the listener with its experimental instrumentation, making it the band’s most engaging record. To answer the question: who are The Strokes now? The Strokes are a band who refuse to be held back by their past. They acknowledge it but prove that change is a good thing, a sign that progression leads to a better future. In these abnormal times, that’s a message we can all do with hearing.

Neutral Magazine + Culture & Society

New York | Amsterdam | England

By Zach McKee |

New York

I went to New York in 2017, just before I started university, it’s a place I have always dreamed of going to and it didn’t disappoint. These photos are only a few of the hundreds I took whilst being there and I wish I could show you all more. I had to narrow it down to my personal favourites, which was a struggle. This is one of, if not the most photogenic place I have ever been to. One of the main things I loved about New York was that at every corner there was something else new and exciting to be captured. It was more hectic and crazier than I could have ever imagined but that just added to the love I have for this city. I hope I can go back one day and use the new skills I have developed in photography; when I originally went back in 2017, I had only just started getting interested in photography. Overall my experience in New York is something I will never forget.


There is so much I could say about Amsterdam so I will try and keep it short. Amsterdam is up there with New York in terms of amazing places I have visited. I didn’t really know what to expect when going but just like New York it did not disappoint. In fact, some of my favourite photographs were taken on my trip to Amsterdam. It is such a colourful and vibrant place; the architecture is stunning to look at and it really was a treat to walk around and take photographs. I believe it’s a place everyone has to visit, it’s full of history, good food and somewhere to create amazing memories. For anyone who is into photography this is a go to place for stunning photos.


Living in England, this is obviously where I get most of my photos. Luckily for me, England really is a beautiful place – something I believe we often don’t realise when we see it all the time. Here is a collection of photos I have taken in different parts of the country; some photos are taken in York and some in Durham. York is such an amazing place, and I feel grateful that I got to spend my time at university in this amazing city. These photos are just a snapshot of the many photos I have taken here, but they are the ones I believe show how stunning this city really is. The few photos here from Durham are from when I went to the Lumiere event in 2019. Personally, the photo of the cathedral is the photo I am most proud of in all the time I have been interested in photography.