Album Review: The Strokes, Comedown Machine

Comedown Machine, the fifth studio effort from iconic New York indie-rockers The Strokes, highlights a band lacking a clear direction, as they deliver a record that seems to be a muddle of sounds from previous releases.While it would seem the band are in a better place this time around, with lead singer Julian Casablancas back in the studio after recording the vocals for their fourth record separate from the rest of the band, they have produced an album that seemingly struggles to find its way between their distinctive ‘that’s a Strokes song’ early sound and their at times dance orientated songs of late.The restless guitar riff during the intro of opening track “Tap Out” gives a misleading  first impression of the track and album as a whole, as the garage riff is swapped for a mellow, and sometimes melancholic bopper (think Phoenix, or a little bit closer to home, Gold Fields). In similarly uninspiring fashion, “One Way Trigger” gives off a whiney baroque-pop vibe as Casablancas’ falsetto belts “You ask me to stay, but there’s a million reasons to leave”. Tracks such as lead single “All The Time” are more reminiscent of the band that won the hearts of fans and critics alike on early releases Is This It and Room on Fire; however, Casablancas’ vocals seem to have lost that effortless cool which was so evident on earlier singles “Last Nite” and “Juicebox”.“Chances” creates a synth-drenched atmosphere which, coupled with reverb heavy vocals, makes a formally distinctive band effectively indistinguishable from so many other indie pop acts capitalising on a scene before it becomes overkill (which surely cannot be too far away).“50/50” offers a pleasant reminder of the type of guitar driven indie-rock that seems to have become somewhat stagnant, although it provides little more than a teaser on a record that sits in the confused centre of two distinct sounds. While there certainly isn’t a deficit of guitars on the record (“Welcome To Japan” and “Partners In Crime” among others lets Albert Hammond, Jr. and Nick Valensi do the heavy lifting), they don’t seem to be the heart of the band like they were on earlier releases.Casablancas’ cry of “don’t judge me” on “50/50” seems ominous, much like the first half of the record. Tracks slide past without necessarily offending the ears, but thoroughly failing to grab the attention of the listener. By this point you may find yourself screaming out for something to jump off the disc and grab you by the balls; however it becomes increasingly evident that you’ll be disappointed.Comedown Machine definitely won’t be the worst thing you listen to in 2013—there is enough there to keep any fan interested in the content, even if only on the most superficial of levels. But from a band as renowned as The Strokes, you can hardly call that a pass Brendan Wrigley

April 11th 2013
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