I feel the same way about The Strokes that I do The Simpsons, it’s not that what they do today is bad, but when you compare it to what it once was it it seems bad. The Strokes released two of the greatest rock albums of the 2000s but have felt directionless since then. First Impressions of Mars was too long with too many cooks (songwriters) in the kitchen. Similarly, each song on Angles had so many parts that it felt like a confused Frankenstein’s monster chasing villagers into the hills. I wouldn’t say either of these albums were bad but they lacked identity. Do the Strokes still want to be East Coast garage rockers? Do they want to be an 80s tribute band? Why can’t they capture what they once had?
Comedown Machine, like Angles is another throw back to the days of vinyl records and Phil Collins domination. Songs like “Tap Out” and “Partners in Crime” wouldn’t have been out of place in a Duran Duran setlist. Titles like, “80’s Comedown Machine” are even less subtle with their message of “We like to do things old school.” As if Julian Casablancas hadn’t already paid his respects to the era of a-ha with his solo record Phrazes for the Young. There’s nothing wrong with going retro if you do it right. But what leaves me more concerned are the tracks I can’t even define.
The album’s lead single “One Way Trigger” is my least favorite Strokes’ single of all time. A mess of busy synths and uncharacteristic falsetto makes for a confusing listen. Luckily, the followup “All the Time” rings more true. It’s not quite hit single material but could have made a nice middle of the lineup track on Room on Fire. Alas, nothing else here harkens back to The Strokes of yesteryear. As many times as I listen to Comedown Machine it just doesn’t want me to remember it.
In my experience, an immediate tepid reaction to a band I like usually leads to a less negative response as times goes by. I adjust to a “new” sound and begin to appreciate it for what it is as opposed to what I want it to be. Yet the more I listen to Comedown Machine the more crestfallen I become. It’s becoming more and more clear that this band will never be what I want it to be ever again. I’m sad to say I have very little interest in what The Strokes will do next. You don’t like my attitude? Then Comedown at me bro.
Favorite Tracks: “All the Time,” “Tap Out”