Album review: The Strokes – ‘Comedown Machine’
The Strokes – Comedown Machine
Buy: Comedown Machine
Who are The Strokes?
They’re the New York band who single-handedly kick started the garage-rock revival in the early 00’s, becoming one of the world’s biggest and most influential bands in the process – but you knew that already.
What do I need to know about Comedown Machine?
Well, if The Strokes had their way – nothing. They’ve barely promoted the album, no interviews, no tours – just an online stream of ‘One Way Trigger’ and a lazy video for ‘All The Time’. Naturally, this has led to the usual rumours of the band splitting up, or not caring, or not caring that they’ve split up, or hating each other but are staying together to just fulfil their album deal with RCA (the fact that ‘RCA’ takes precedence over ‘The Strokes’ on the album cover may be an unsubtle hint!). Whatever’s going on, Comedown Machine has become one of the year’s most talked-about albums – which may have been The Strokes’ intention from the start!
What’s good about it?
After their career-defining two album burst of Is This It and Room On Fire, the good old law of diminishing returns has blighted The Strokes’ output – culminating in the limp and rather frustrating Angles in 2011. The problem they’ve had is that they’ve always stuck to the same formula – lots of grungey riffs and lo-fi melodies – and have understandably never consistently managed to scale the same heights as their first two albums.
It’s refreshing, then, that Comedown Machine features some new ideas, most notably Julian Casablancas’ falsetto singing on the synth-led ‘One Way Trigger’, the funk-heavy guitar line on ‘Tap Out’, the almost dub-reggae of ‘Welcome To Japan’ and a Beastie Boys-esque intro to the scuzzy ‘80’s Comedown Machine’ – which is probably the most enjoyable and ‘Strokes-esque’ song on the album.
What’s not so good?
Despite Comedown Machine having a welcome mix of the familiar Strokes formula and some new ideas – it feels like something is missing. The whole album is completely flat and lacking in both direction and momentum. It actually sounds like The Strokes are on auto-pilot, which explains the slightly off-kilter musical influences on show. Comedown Machine isn’t a ‘Strokes’ album, it’s a collection of half-hearted songs by a group of people who maybe don’t care who The Strokes are and what they stand for any more.
The fact that The Strokes have made a half-decent and almost interesting album without trying tells you all you need to know about their combined talent and charisma, but the fact that all that talent and charisma is being wasted on half-hearted releases like Comedown Machine is not just a shame – it’s a travesty.