The Strokes - Comedown Machine
2011's Angles was not the return to form The Strokes needed after so long away. As we said at the time, it had its moments but they were largely fleeting and it's not an album you feel driven to return to after the fact. To have a new effort so soon after that album's tortuous recording process is a surprise. Comedown Machine exhibits a lighter touch, one that has not been over-thought - and the results are more entertaining - although longevity remains a concern.
Without abandoning the standard Strokes format, Julian Casablancas and co. have re-found their relevancy. Comedown Machine is very 2013. They've opened the musical box and found ringing guitars and light electro rhythms. Casablancas' falsetto gets a good workout and the overall presentation successfully marries their garage rock and pop with a funkier, NY disco feel. 'One Way Trigger''s unabashed A-ha-isms are typical of the playfulness on show here, a sense that carries over into the indie funk of 'Welcome To Japan' and the pop bounce of 'Partners In Crime' which manages to shoehorn a chorus worthy of Stereolab into the mix.
This is said to be their last album under contract with RCA in the States (what did Rough Trade think when they saw the artwork?). Perhaps they feel a weight lifting from their shoulders. The cut 'n paste nature of Casablancas' lyrics give little away. 'Happy Endings' ("Baby, show me where to go,") looks to the future, although "Find a job / Find a friend / Find a home / Find a dog / Settle down" ('One Way Trigger') sounds like the bucket list of someone who would be quite happy just shutting the studio door and walking away from it all.
The throat-shredding 'Slow Animals' and the somewhat Strokes-by-numbers 'All The Time' stake decent claims for being added to the live repertoire (ensuring that any shows don't just turn into a nostalgia fest) but, overall, there's not that much here to persuade doubters to return to the fold. Nevertheless, if you've stuck with The Strokes so far, you'll find an album with a quiet charm. Whether that's enough to persuade you to go and buy this now, or wait a month to pick it up in a 2-for-£10 deal, is arguable.