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The Strokes: Comedown Machine

strokesThe Strokes
Comedown Machine
(RCA)

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Julian, we need to have a talk about your band’s new album. I just don’t understand what you’re doing. The synths and new waviness, the extreme falsetto, the lack of guitar, and that bizarre, old timey song at the end of the record – what’s going on here? What happened to the Strokes?

When Is This It, The Strokes’ debut album, was released in the fall of 2001, rock fans were blessed with an album full of true rock and roll gems. The album has a distinct point of view and featured instant classics like “Last Nite” and “Someday,” which had sharp, catchy, stuck-in-your-head guitar riffs, punked-out drums and Julian Casablancas’ twisted croon. He was the ‘00s answer to a Jim Morrison figure with a hit of Iggy Pop and a lot of wonderful grit. With the help of bands like The White Stripes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Hives, The Strokes launched a much-needed garage rock revival.

And now, we have the Strokes’ most recent album, Comedown Machine. “All The Time,” the album’s first single, was my introduction to Comedown. Although I don’t dislike this song, it’s just an OK song, not a great one. My biggest problem with it is that there’s very little passion. It sounds as if someone programmed a computer to write a Strokes song.

Then we make our way onto songs like “One Way Trigger” and “Welcome to Japan,” which crank up the synth and falsetto. Personally, I’m not a huge new wave fan. Music from bands like a-ha and The Human League make my ears bleed and I’d prefer to pretend that that genre from the ‘80s never happened.

But, I get their point. They wanted to try something different. They’re perhaps tired of writing the same kind of rock music and wanted to branch out a bit. But instead of creating an album with a new, clear point of view, they’ve created an album that just seems…lost. It wanders and experiments with sounds and genres. It makes an attempt, but in no way does this feel like a finished, cohesive record.

There are a few saving moments on the album though. “80’s Comedown Machine” has some simple, beautifully-crafted synths that highlight Julian’s vocals nicely. “50/50” is a cool punk rock song that features a gritty, distorted vocal and hooky guitar riffs. “Partners in Crime” has more of a classic Strokes feel to it with tight guitars and a distinct direction.

But then we return to songs like “Slow Animals” and “Chances,” which seem more dated than an 80’s prom dress and make me cringe.

What happened, Strokes? What happened to the great rock music you guys used to make? Or is this only a phase? God, I hope so.

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About Julie Kocsis

Julie Kocsis is Associate Editor and a contributing writer of ShortAndSweetNYC.com. Living in Brooklyn, she works for Penguin Random House during the day and writes about rock bands at night. In addition to her many band interviews as well as album and concert reviews that have been published on ShortAndSweetNYC.com, she has also been published on The Huffington Post, Brooklyn Exposed and the Brooklyn Rail.
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3 Comments

  • Leon
    25 Mar 2013 | Permalink |

    You got the name of their debut album wrong.

  • Yussun Ovebic
    11 May 2013 | Permalink |

    I must say I like it. Very catchy songs and kind of different from their former style, but in a good way. Ah ah… This review instead proves that at a certain point of their career musicians are blamed whatever: if they keep on doing the same, critics will say “Oh, why don’t they try something different?”, but if they do try something new they’ll say “please bring us back the same old stuff…”

  • Ton De Raedt
    15 Feb 2014 | Permalink |

    This is the best album I have heard for 5 years. Sorry you didnt get it – its not ‘Is this IT’. Its ten times better

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