REVIEW: The Strokes – Comedown Machine

Band: The Strokes
Album: Comedown Machine
Label: RCA
Genre: Garage Rock

If the whole of your research were to stem strictly from the interwebs, one would have to surmise that The Strokes’ new album Comedown Machine was, without question, the worst album ever created in the history of modern music. This, however, is nothing more than a collective hyperbole. The album is not only serviceable, it is better than a majority of the albums released and swept under the rug in this unforgivable industry.

Sadly though, that’s not how the industry works. Often, as an artist, critics place your latest release in a pecking order based off where it fits against your previous catalog. Although this act is possibly done rather unfairly, it is also done with a sense of clarity.

It is clear that this album does not live up to the standard of a cut from The Strokes. Don’t get me wrong, here all of the important signatures are in place. The bass is flowing. The guitar riffs are choppy, fluttering and spastically spraying themselves all over the mix. “Tap Out” and “Welcome to Japan,” for example, are both classic elements of what made The Strokes the saviors of the New York music scene at one point. Hell, at times the tracks even sound like they’ve been lifted from Is This It (see “All the Time”). The garage-rock sound that they’ve adopted is gritty and rough, uncollected and often intended to strike a nerve. But don’t think for a second that it isn’t well-thought out and predetermined. This is where The Strokes shine.

The whole of The Strokes’ famed sound somehow did not come intact with the new album. A great deal of the responsibility of this falls on the shoulders of Julian Casablancas shifting dramatically from this normal and honed singing voice into more of a falsetto-based whine. While this logically makes sense in the context of the album, which seems to be focused pretty heavily on the influence of the sounds of other bands, it certainly draws the attention away from what it is that made The Strokes “The Strokes.” Take two key tracks from Comedown Machine, for example. “Tap Out,” the album’s opening track, feels like it could have been lifted from The Police’s Ghost in the Machine. While this works for Bruno Mars, it seems to have a less-than-satisfactory result with loyal fans on the garage revival. Additionally, “One Way Trigger” seems to be a reincarnated version of “Take on Me,” again justifying Casablancas’ need to sound like someone slammed his manhood in a car door. There is far more new wave than punk circling the soundboard and the band makes more references to The Cars than The Clash these days.

Who knows, really? Maybe the album is nothing more than the end of an era for the band. Comedown Machine represents the last of their obligations to RCA records. It is possible that the collective has issued a selection of middle fingers to the label, holding back the goods for a future takeover. It is also possible that this is the band’s swan song and they truly no longer give a shit. Either way, the album is what it is. In and of itself there are elements worth hearing. However, stacked against their legacy, it can barely tread water. Take from that what you choose.

SCORE: 6/10
Review written by: Josh Hammond

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5 Responses to “REVIEW: The Strokes – Comedown Machine”

  1. Jamie says:

    I think you mean ‘All the Time’ when you refer to ‘All the Way’ in the third paragraph.

  2. LozzCraig says:

    I reckon that the Happy blog had it right when they said that it was sort of indefinably disappointing. I still like Comedown Machine as an album on it’s own, but it’s not what I wanted from a new album from The Strokes

  3. Ciara Clark says:

    This album is a masterpiece

  4. Dan says:

    I find it odd that the majority of the people who review this album don’t get it. This is another change of pace album, much like Angles. This album when removed from the shadows of “is this it” is a wonderful piece and can stand alone. People are so stuck on the past that they miss the “Now”. There is not one song on this album worth skipping over, everyone well crafted and…well, just great. Enough with the “living up to…” crap. 2001 is gone, this band has not given up they are progressing and keeping us on our toes.

  5. KatieKakes says:

    I read that review to, they made some very good points but I think that over all I’ll enjoy it more after a few listens