Review by Nick Devin
The Strokes have been labelled with the title of one of the pioneering bands to make the indie music craze so popular. They did it with one single album, 2001’s ‘Is This It?’ All of the songs on that album had replay value that still holds strong today. Mesmerising riffs, catchy choruses, and solos that would make any guitarist jealous are common characteristics of Strokes albums. Comedown Machine is their new album, and although it has some stellar tracks, I can’t help but feel that maybe the Strokes are running out of ideas.
The album begins with ‘Tap Out’ a song with familiar sound and a vibe which the Strokes have perfected. The soft jumping riffs that are played on the guitar give interesting depth to the song, and a good way to begin the album. As soon as it is played, you can instantly recognise the sound of the Strokes. Whether this is a good thing, staying to what they know, or a bad thing in which they are repeating the same sound, all came down to the rest of the album.
The next song, ‘All the Time’ once again has a similar sound to every other Strokes song ever made. It takes me back to songs from ‘Is This It?’ having a déjà vu moment. This is what the Strokes do best: adding a memorable sing a long chorus with a solo that reaches heights and this song captures that at its best within the album.
‘One Way Trigger’ follows the outline for their songs as well, with Casablancas reaching the top of his vocal range which is different to hear. Usually he only sings high when he is punching out the lyrics to the chorus.
The more I listen to the album, the more I begin to like ‘Welcome to Japan’, the fourth track. I dare anyone to listen to the start of the song, and tell me it doesn’t sound very similar to Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall.’ Whether this was intentional or not, I’m glad that when that part is repeated, it is sung at a higher octave breaking apart the similarities to Pink Floyd. The song has a darker feel to it, with a chord rhythm that sounds as if it belongs in a funk song. Unfortunately, this is where the best of the songs within the album come to a halt.
‘80’s Comedown Machine’ must be their song that they believe is their standout as it is named after the album. It must be of some importance to the band. But this is where the established vibe of the album is lost. They adopt a punk rock riff, that although it sounds good, does not suit the band. It could just be me, but the distorted effect that Casablacas uses on his vocal line is becoming a bit old as it has been used in a majority of his songs on every album. I would rather hear his voice without the effect, and that would have made this song much better.
The rest of the songs on the album become pretty generic and boring, as they all start to meld into another and hard to decipher which songs are which. Thankfully the album ends on what might be one of the smartest songs written by the Strokes. An ode to old love songs past, a simple soft guitar plucks notes high on the fret board creating a dream like sound. This leads into a soaring chorus where Casablacas sings in falsetto which is perfect for this song.
The Strokes haven’t done anything new with this album, which is a shame because some of the songs feel as if they should belong on their first album, which is a good thing. The Strokes might have met their match finally and have run out of ideas on how to create a new sound. They will still stay the pioneers they always were, but won’t be pioneering anything new with Comedown Machine.
3.5 out of 5
- Tap Out
- All the Time
- Call it Fate Call it Karma
- Slow Animals
- Partners in Crime