In 2001, The Strokes received critical acclaim for their debut Is This It and maintained the potential to become one of 2000s greatest rock bands. Today, the New York-based outfit released their fifth album, Comedown Machine, but lost most of the recognition they earned 12 years ago. After coming out of a 5 year hiatus, with frontman Julian Casablancas releasing his own solo debut intermittently, The Strokes had lost a lot of mainstream appeal, considering their rise and fall in pop culture and the music scene. Their sophomore album, Room on Fire, was their last album that actually gained both acclaim and appeal among critics and fans. But after the release of 2006’s moody First Impressions of Earth and their disappointing 2011 comeback record Angles, the Strokes seemed like they were done. But despite the rumors and reports that surfaced about the band’s breakup, they yet again released another album, Comedown Machine, which is so far their most appealing work in a while.
Although derivative and sluggish in some instances, Comedown Machine keeps the band’s garage lo-fi sound intact and Casablancas’ grungy tenor steady. The new record contains a few nostalgic albeit imitative Is This It throwbacks (“All the Time,” “50/50”), new intriguing and catchy tracks (“Tap Out,” “Welcome to Japan”), and generic melodies (“One Way Trigger,” “Slow Animals”). The Strokes are somewhat in touch with their roots, but they can do better. However, compared to their previous unsuccessful predecessors, Comedown Machine is an easy 38-minute listen.
The great thing about The Strokes’ new record is that it sounds like they’re actually trying. Casablancas has developed more emotional depth in his lyrics than his lazy and hasty works in former albums. Despite Casablancas’ considerable amount of lyrical effort, Comedown Machine doesn’t necessarily explore any themes of any specific topic. Looking at Comedown Machine through an artistic perspective, the album artwork suggests that The Strokes are going for an old-fashioned 90s punk rock look, with the styling of what looks like a mixtape.
It’s hard to tell if The Strokes will ever come out of their endless genius-deprived sleep, but it’s good to know for now that they are in a stable state. With a smooth composition, Comedown Machine is much more appealing and put into effort than the last two Strokes albums. Even on their last album, Angles, Casablancas deliberately removed himself from most of the recording process, only going so far as recording his vocals. Luckily, there is no indication that Casablancas nor any other Strokes member lack effort in Comedown Machine.
Suggested Tracks: “Tap Out,” “Welcome to Japan”