Comedown Machine by The Strokes Review
Comedown Machine drops almost two years to the day after The Strokes’ previous record, but I doubt it will leave die-hard fans satisfied. The band feels like they’re becoming more at home with the musical style they began moving towards with 2011’s Angles, leaving behind the musical influences of the iconic Is This It and Room On Fire. That’s not to say that this album is not just more of the same. The band reach beyond their usual comfort zone, but the tracks this exploration leads to tend to be a bit hit and miss.
The first two songs released from the album– One Way Trigger and All The Time – seem to offer a hint at the dual nature of the album. All The Time leans heavily upon a listener’s expectations of The Strokes, a look back at their previous works but not quite reaching the heights that greatly-admired music sits at. One Way Trigger no doubt caught many existing fans off-guard, with that Casio keyboard sound, front and center. It is a good representation of the album’s other half: an expansion beyond the established framework, but still imbued with an identifiably Strokes-ian sensibility.
The record’s first half is definitely its strongest. The opening song, Tap Out, is an unsteady first step that is swiftly followed up by the far stronger All The Time and One Way Trigger. The next three tracks – Welcome To Japan, 80’s Comedown Machine and 50/50 – keep up the momentum set by that combination, giving The Strokes the strongest run of songs they’ve had in the second half of their career.
It’s at this point, however, that the album begins its slow decline, once Slow Animals starts playing the album stops playing to the band’s strengths and begins to lose focus. The second side of the record sounds more like The Strokes emulating other bands and a lot of the interest gained on the first side is lost.
Comedown Machine does represent a development on the part of The Strokes, at times they play to their strengths and identify the best parts of Angles, such as on All The Time, 50/50 and standout track Welcome To Japan. Other tracks, such as One Way Trigger (another album highlight), push the boundaries of their sound, creating something distinctive and quite
memorable. Almost-title track 80’s Comedown Machine is reminiscent of The Bends-era Radiohead. Julian Casablancas has matured lyrically, moving towards a more grounded and adult perspective.
It’s unfortunate then, that Comedown Machine, which has an incredible opening salvo, is let down by a lackluster second half. Hardcore fans might find themselves disappointed, but I’m sure more casual listeners will find something to love on this album.