Best Tracks: "Tapout", "One Way Trigger"
The Strokes have always been a band that I have enjoyed for quite some time and they have been widely acclaimed and recognized by the entire music industry ever since their debut release Is This It? back in 2001. Rock music fans felt rejuvenated by the Strokes and their new garage rock tribute to 80's pop. So much so that the Strokes quickly became one of those bands that were always defined by their first album. However, they quickly proved these critics wrong with releases like Room on Fire, First Impressions of the Earth, and their previous release, Angles. Now granted, these albums never reached the success of Is This It? but they stilled kept the Strokes at the top of the game.
I'll be completely honest in saying that I was dreading listening to this album. Not because I hated it or didn't want to listen to it, it was because the two singles for Comedown Machine ("One Way Trigger" and "All the Time") made me fear for what the Strokes had become. And unfortunately, my fears came true.
Comedown Machine is the 5th Studio album from the NYC-based Strokes (Although Julian Casablancas tries especially hard to sound European). With this album, the Strokes knew that they had their fan base on the edge of their seats in anticipation of a new album. This may have actually affected their music as most of the songs on here are not very memorable and not very vibrant. Usually, these are two qualities that the Strokes are known for but it is not the case.
For example, "All the Time" is dispassionate. Straight from the start, the guitars aren't very detailed and Julian's vocals are just very cold and all-around mediocre. To me it sounds like a very generic song that I might expect from most garage rock bands on the scene today but definitely not the Strokes. In addition to this, songs like "Slow Animals" and "Partners in Crime" sound choppy, pasted together and rushed. They are by no means bad, but people do not like them because they don't have the energy or vibe of classic Strokes songs like "Reptilia" or "Someday".
Although it is unfair to compare this album to Room on Fire or Is this It? because these are spectacular albums. I also think the Strokes last few releases have suffered greatly as a result of this effect. Granted they haven't been as good as the earlier albums, they still are new albums in newer more electronic styles. For example, Angles was a very solid album and it featured music outside of the Strokes' usual comfort range. Although Comedown Machine isn't as developed or interesting as Angles, it has its share of bright spots.
For example, the opening track Tapout is very busy from the get-go and features some nice signature vocals from Casablancas. This song is an example of the Strokes taking a new direction and succeeding. It is fun, catchy and unlike anything we have ever seen from the Strokes which is the sign of a good band. And although I wasn't very keen on the single for this album "One Way Trigger", it really grew on me and now is one of my favorites from the album. I think I simply wasn't happy with Casablancas singing in such high falsetto. However, his voice soars through the choruses and compliments the verses very well. Also of course is the very infectious keyboard pattern which almost dances around in the background of the song. This is the type of 80's tribute that made the Strokes such an intriguing group.
Unfortunately, the greatness of the Strokes did not really go pass these two songs for the most part. The rest of the songs on the album like "50/50" or "Happy Ending" all grabbed me with intriguing hooks but then left me disappointed with rushed or undetailed verses and choruses. Also, the few times the Strokes try to mellow out and go slower are nice attempts at serenity but ultimately are ill-timed and poor. For example "80's Comedown Machine" seems very out of place in what is most predominantly a fast pace album from the Strokes.
As you can see, I was greatly disappointed by this album. Not because it was poor but because the Strokes are SO much better than this and I'm sure they know it to. What bothers me is the lack of care. They seem to be content with the success of their previous albums and almost unwilling to try and top it. That is a dangerous mentality to go through any career with much less the cut-throat 21st century music industry. I hope we here more from the Strokes, and I hope they let their true colors shine because they are a talented group of musicians who have certainly made this past decade of music a better experience for millions of people.