Album Review: The Strokes – Comedown Machine
There is nothing in this world quite so terrifying as a self-entitled Strokes fan. Given their way they would tie down front-man Julian Casablancas with the laces of their dirty battered converse trainers and force him at gunpoint to write clones of smash-hits Last Night and Reptilia for the rest of his miserable existence. Casablancas must be sick to death of these fans moaning and groaning that The Strokes are veering away from their classic archetypal sound, almost as much as he is tired of journalists describing the latest album that his band put out as “the best album since Is This It?”…
The fifth full-length studio release from the NYC indie messiahs is a fun, playful and imaginative record that will infuriate anyone expecting another version of their debut. You’ve probably heard by now that the album has an 80’s sheen… Hell, there are uncontacted Papua New Guinea tribes-folk who know that Comedown Machine is inspired by the 80’s, and they don’t know what the 80’s are.
Contagiously catchy opening track Tap Out is a big “f*ck you” to anyone who was expecting a repeat of their first record’s lo-fi garage rock anthemic numbers: it’s a deliciously understated slice of eletro-pop that owes as much to Michael Jackson’s Thriller as Is This It? owed to The Velvet Underground and Television. JC’s famously opaque lyrics are often maligned as meaningless but you only have to dig a little deeper to see commentary from the band on their current situation: Tap Out’s “gotta get my hands on something new” and “decide my past, define my life” are all telling in terms of the band wanting to shake off their “garage rock post-punk revival” tag, be creative and try something new.
Album highlight Welcome To Japan recalls classic Duran Duran and builds on the electro-funk of the opening track, and might just have the greatest lyric of the year in Casablancas’ hushed “scuba dancing touchdown”- whoever said Julian doesn’t have a sense of humour? The chorus of “didn’t really know this, what kind of asshole drives a lotus?” deserves to become 2013’s most repeated Strokes phrase.
The experimental moments work too: 80’s Comedown Machine is a gorgeous ethereal dreamy number which sets an archaic sounding fairground organ against Casablancas’ soothing melancholic vocal. Elsewhere, the sexy as hell Happy Ending rides along on a wave of candy-coated but filthy grooves; it fuses the album’s greatest moments into a disco call-to-arms built for dancefloor scream-alongs (“Baby! Show me where to go!”) showcasing exemplary production duties from Gus Oberg (who also produced Angles).
Comedown Machine is diverse, lively, and unashamedly inventive- and thankfully nothing like their debut. But The Strokes’ debut is over a decade old. Get over it – they certainly have.