Fun – The Strokes have always been known as a cool band, but not fun. This is the first Strokes record that actually sounds like it was enjoyable for the band to record (Julian Casablancas even recorded his vocals WITH the rest of the band!). It’s great that the band (appears) to enjoy working with each other, but any borderline fan hoping for another Is This It? will finally jump off the wagon. On a side note: hasn’t it been way past the point where people are justified to expect another Is This It? It’s been twelve years and some fans still hasn’t forgiven them.
I’m convinced after hearing Comedown Machine that there are two Strokes. There are the cool upstate New Yorkers who worshipped Television and Lou Reed and released a 70s rock album that was better than any actual rock record released in the 70s. Then there are the Strokes who made Comedown Machine (and Angels, First Impressions Of Earth and Room On Fire). The second Strokes are equally as cool, but instead they worship 80s new wave punk. The first Strokes broke up a long time ago. The second Strokes are still around making underrated music. Do not mix the two.
Julian-Casablancas – Even if it’s not actually the case, Comedown Machine is Julian’s show. The strong 80s vibe is treading Casablancas territory, specifically his 2009 solo album Phrazes for the Young, and on a lot of songs it seems that the rest of the band is just a supporting cast. Now the Strokes will always be the Strokes (Phrazes proved that) so this is still very much an undeniable Strokes album with that same New York vibe and the tightest rhythm section in all of modern rock music. Want proof? “Tap Out”, “All The Time”, and “Happy Ending”. But it’s also tracks like “Chances” and “One Way Trigger” that I love because it shows the band’s evolution throughout the years, and because I’m a sucker for anything 80s.
RCA – Comedown Machine is the last album of the band’s five-album contract with RCA, and the band wanted you to know that. The album cover provokes the idea that this album was made just for the sake of finishing their time with RCA, which started high with Is This It? but hasn’t matched that critical success since. Now that their time with RCA is over, it will be interesting to see where the Strokes go from here (or even if they’ll still be together).
Overall: At the end of the day, this is just another record by a great band that is used to making bold statements. The statement here is that there is no statement, and whether you like the album or not depends on if you can accept that the Strokes will never make another album as important (or as good) as Is This It?, and Comedown Machine could very well be the best Strokes record not released in 2001. Keep in mind that the writer of this review loves when rock bands bring out their inner-retro 80s.
You’ll Like This Record If: You accept that the Strokes will never sound like their 2001 incarnation ever again. Also if you like the 80s.
You’ll Hate This Record If: You cannot accept that the Strokes will never sound like their 2001 incarnations ever again. Also if you hate the 80s.
Essential Tracks: “Tap Out”, “All The Time”, “Chances”
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber