Album Analyst: Comedown Machine

When I think of The Strokes, who are the original kings of alternative rock, the difference between them and most other bands is in the legacy that they have created for themselves, and in the near cult following they have amassed. Their music can be described as a journey, a progression as the band explores new sound from album to album. While most fans worship the band that debuted “Is This Ist,” and await the triumphant return to that sound like the second coming of Christ, time and time again they insist on pushing their music to places they’ve never been before. “Comedown Machine” continues that legacy, and ushers in a new era for The Strokes, much in the same way “Angles” did two years ago. Having said that, before we light this candle, I want to start by saying that this album is going to be what you make of it. If you transition from track to track without relishing the melodic high-register vocals by Casablancas on “One Way Trigger,” and instead pout about how each track isn’t a “Someday” clone, you’re not going to have a good time.


Comedown Machine” resembles an intricate mosaic between an added emphasis on synth melodies, a new found presence in the higher, falsetto register from Casablancas’ voice, and the classic Strokes we’ve all grown up with. At face value, the album appears to be a fusion of older material and newer sounds, reminiscent of the attempt “Angles,” made at focusing more on atmosphere than simply the melody itself. Packed full of wonderfully-written songs, and displaying the signature poppy, staccato guitar riffs, and the heavy, laid-back droning from Casbalancas, the music is genuinely fun to listen to. For example: “Chances,” a truly beautiful song, is comprised of looping 80s-esque synths, and an intimate guitar melody. Casablancas sings on, “I’ll Play Your Game, I’ll Play Your Game,” with his voice delicately floating in the higher ranges. Basically, in this song, his tone is utterly surrendering. Tracks like “Tap Out,” “Welcome to Japan,” and “Happy Ending” embody the spirit of playful guitar parts woven into a lively melody, characteristic of classic Strokes songs, and revitalize the endurance of the album, which make up for the occasional bland moments in songs like “Partners in Crime.”

Although most of the tracks are individually delightful, there is a seeming disconnect in the flow from track to track, which I, while coming to question the odd juxtaposition of the songs, dismissed as an awkward feature rather than a failure. While I think the added importance on synths in some of their songs gives their sound some added depth, the transition into a more encompassing pop-synth based melody may simply be a product of the times. The indie-pop genre is gaining momentum in the music scene, and it shouldn’t be cause for alarm. The record is legitimately solid and satisfying for the most part, with blunders arising not from an exploration into new sound, but from an occasional lack in vivacity and addictive qualities. Despite the presence of these minor flaws, “Comedown Machine” is legitimately fun to listen to, and is a strong chapter in The Strokes‘ legacy, a chapter that true fans will genuinely enjoy.

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