Review of Comedown Machine Album by The Strokes

When New York City outfit The Strokes broke through in 2001 they were pigeonholed alongside the likes of The White Stripes, The Hives and The Vines in the garage-rock explosion.  What set them apart though was their debut record; 'Is This It' was and still is considered a classic guitar album bringing with it huge expectations.  Subsequent releases lacked consistency amongst odd moments of brilliance, but album five sees the quintet rediscover a winning formula.

The Strokes Comedown Machine Album

'Comedown Machine' is not a return to the raw, lo-fi approach that characterised The Strokes' seminal release, but this is in no way detrimental.  The reference point this time around are the pop bands of the eighties - Human League, A-ha - and the jabs of rhythm and guitar that underpin the opening 'Tap Out' are a delightful combination with Julian Casablancas' laidback falsetto.  Latest single 'All The Time' finds the band in more familiar territory, a rock and roll romp featuring some effortlessly cool guitar work, before free download 'One Way Trigger' displays a fun groove that had previously not been a noted part of the group's repertoire.  The mood is carried through to 'Welcome To Japan'; a track Prince would be proud to call his own and you'll likely find an involuntary need to shuffle along.  

The midsection of the album sees two of the slower tracks in the shape of the meandering '80s 'Comedown Machine' and 'Slow Animals'.  The latter highlights the unpredictable character of their fifth record, with dynamic melody changes that fit seamlessly whilst being far from obvious.  Slotting between the pair is an electrifying piece called '50/50', a bloodthirsty audio assault that will undoubtedly have its lead riff imitated endlessly and is the perfect backing to Casablancas' rip-roaring delivery.  The only negative comment that can be made is that it has the shortest running time of anything here. apologies for being greedy.

By the final section of the record the band could be forgiven for losing some momentum - but they don't.  The heavily synthesised 'Chances' matches The Killers in paying homage to New Romanticism, while the riff of 'Happy Endings' couldn't be any more apt for a track with such a name.  It provides a final opportunity to don your dancing shoes and enjoy the rejuvenation of The Strokes, for this is the sound of a band that have tuned into the same wavelength and produced a collection of songs that you and, crucially, they can have fun with.  It is this factor that sees them delivering on the promise of their debut and, though this may not have the same impact on the music climate, it is most definitely worth investing time in.

Alex Lai

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