The Strokes are a 5-piece American band consisting of Julian Casablancas (lead vocals), Nick Valensi (guitar, backing vocals), Albert Hammond, Jr. (guitar, backing vocals), Nikolai Fraiture (bass guitar) and Fabrizio Moretti (drums, percussion). Comedown Machine their latest album was released on 26th March, 2013 (a mere 2 years from their last release Angles).
Their 5th album release was a quiet one. There was no media build-up or big promotions and only a single pre-release interview was conducted to herald its coming. Yet, after the chart disaster that was Angles, Comedown Machine comes as a sort-of relief; it isn’t another Is This It (there never will be) but it is a well made album – an announcement that The Strokes haven’t quite given up yet.
The album starts with Tap Out hinting their changed sound in this album and has a fairly retro melody. In one review, All The Time was called “a Strokes song on autopilot” and I couldn’t agree more. It is pretty much the Strokes by the book, and a doable track.
Now One Way Trigger is where shit hits the fan (Yes, I know it’s only the third track) – Julian. Casablancas. Does. Falsettos. I’m all for bands branching out, working new mojo, BUT THIS? This was so unexpected it left me a little shocked. (JULIAN WUT R U DOIN JULIAN STAHP)
Welcome to Japan despite having a sound “newer” than that of the Strokes’ standard, is super catchy and oddly groovy. Something I’d dance to in the shower probably.
The idle 80’s Comedown Machine (almost title track of the album) and mellow Slow Animals are the album’s slower tracks along with Chances, by which time you get used to Julian’s vocal makeover. In fact, you might even start to justify them or reason it out as a show of his “sensitive side”.
50/50 walks up with bravado to become one of the best songs in the album with catchy lines like the defiant “Don’t judge me” and the mysterious “I wait on a darkened highway”.
Partner in Crime was that song you don’t like neither do you dislike on an album, but is just… there. The guitar work in the ending really intrigued me but that barely lasted 5 seconds.
Happy Ending is a fun song, and the “Baby, show me where to go”s eventually win you over.
The album concludes with Call It Fate, Call it Karma – a dreamy, lazy track. And even though this is yet another anomaly by The Strokes it is too pretty to not listen to especially with a line like “Can I stand in your light just for a while?”
The secret ingredient to every good Strokes song has been a good dash of recklessness and/or spunk (Reptilia, New York City Cops to name some). And so far, this album seems to be lacking in both. Comedown Machine was nothing if not a subdued album.
For many, this album was a ghastly abomination *cough* WTF falsettos Julian *cough*, an album where The Strokes have seem to lost their “muchness” to quote Alice in Wonderland. This does not mean, however, that this is not a good album. It *is* a Strokes creation and despite what the general consensus about the album seems to be, I am on the artist’s side this time. The album has grown on me despite the initial disdain and if Welcome to Japan, Slow Animals, 50/50 or Call It Fate, Call It Karma came up on shuffle, I definitely would not hit the skip button.