The Strokes – Comedown Machine

Albums / Words

25 Mar 13

The Strokes’ fifth studio effort is their widest reaching yet. Unsurprising, when you process the New Yorkers’ need to tamper. Switch ups run wild across Comedown Machine‘s conceptual basing, which deals with the processing of time, via musical prowess which intelligently negotiates the vastly trod sound-scape of Modern Rock.

The record is blisteringly short: 37 minutes, but this never feels restricting, as the intricacies of musicality prove time is barely even worth noting: the power-pop chorus of single ‘All the Time’ is a healthy top-of-the-pile Strokes single, and it’s true there’s much here that retains a chord-heavy cymbal-crash-y vibe, take ’50/50′ for a run for its’ rock n’roll money.

It’s the other end of this platter that will turn taste-maker heads. The ‘Slow Animals’, ‘Welcome to Japan’ and ‘One Way Trigger”s of the record feel nurtured by the band’s mature side; but this is never compromised by a lessening of rock n’roll spirit: “Find a job/ Settle down/ Heart attack”; Casablancas howls, vocals which swim with a oak-aged smarm-yness.

See also, ’80s Comedown Machine’ for a true double effort: it thanks the 80s and feels scoffingly naughties, too.

‘Comedown Machine’ knows its own game. The Strokes, like the most distinguished of gentle folk, are aging with grace.

The story of The Strokes will probably always be told as a parable about diminishing returns; of albums with half the quality and internal ‘harmony’ of their predecessors.

But this isn’t reason enough to pillory a group whose original standards were stellar, and whose capacity for transformation ripens on album five.

Though the production of Comedown Machine is a triumph of diplomacy, the band’s notoriously schismatic politic is well-realised in a diffuse, exploratory collection – from mathy opener ‘Tap Out’ to loping Gallic oddity ‘Call It Fate Call It Karma’.

‘All The Time’ – a trademark, Is This It?-era Julian Casablancas shrug of a vocal line – is dispatched early; much of the record devoted to an excursion into ‘80s techno. The similarities of ‘One Way Trigger’ to A-ha are well-documented; less so the silky R&B cool of ‘Chances’.

Elsewhere, thumper ’50 50’ might have been a latter White Stripes effort. In fact, The Strokes share the challenge once faced by those other trailblazers of the lo-fi revolution – of graceful ageing, and overcoming suppositions of ‘past’ glories.

Objectively, Comedown Machine is a wearied thing from a wearied band. But as for safeguarding a Strokes legacy, where there was once posturing is now only adventurousness of palette.

Things have died since the days of Is This It? Tony Blair’s smile, Fizzy Jerks, Tree-climbing and Fred Weasley to name but a few.

So of course The Strokes are different.

Comedown Machine is a mixed bag. Sometimes that old Strokes magic to create an intricate pop melody is there, but at other times it just feels like a muddied version of the famed band.

‘One Way Trigger’ is a potential hit. More evocative of Casablancas’ solo work than a classic Strokes track, but with the added layers of the band it works well.

In fact the album as a whole feels like the band has decided to go with Casablancas’ electro vibe instead of fighting it.

‘Tap Out’ is another track of note with shuffling guitar riffs and Casablancas’ putting on a mumbling croon show.

And the switch two minutes into ‘Partners Of Crime’ shows that ability The Strokes have always had to change tact at breakneck speed straight into a killer melodic line.

The Strokes are back. The once hailed saviours of the Guitalaxy are always going to be scrutinised far too vigorously, but at least they are making music. At least they are alive. Fred Weasley is gone and he will never be here or there ever again and in that lays the sadness.

Comedown Machine premiered over at Pitchfork Advance. For more info, check out   <object width="640" height="360"><param name="movie" value=";hl=en_GB&amp;rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src=";hl=en_GB&amp;rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="360" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>