The Strokes are an interesting act. They seem to invite scrutiny more so than most other bands, at least lately. They enjoyed a good measure of success in 2001 as key players in the resurgence of “Garage Rock” alongside other bands such as The White Stripes, The Hives, and The Vines, with their commercially and critically successful debut album Is This It. That period was also apparently a revival of the “The” bands. They followed that up with another critically successful sophomore effort, Room On Fire. Then came their seemingly mediocre third release, First Impressions of Earth, and then they fell into hiatus-driven obscurity for five years until 2011 when they released the pseudo-comeback album Angles (QRO review). That period really began the period of critical scrutiny that they are still enjoying with the release of their most recent album, Comedown Machine.
Some folks are jeering them for apparently being a cheap imitation of their past selves. It has also been mentioned several places that Comedown Machine should have been lead singer Julian Casablancas’ second solo album (his first, Phrazes For the Young, was released in 2009 – QRO review), as it resembles the New Wave synth-y sound that he explored with that release.
Getting right to the point, Comedown Machine is a good album. A little synth and New Wave influence never hurt anyone. In fact, let’s use more of it! Evolution in sound may not always produce something that appeals to everyone, but it’s ultimately a good thing in that it shows that a band isn’t satisfied with churning out the same commercially successful sound year in and year out (Bon Jovi).
It can be tough to be a band in today’s music industry/society. If you’re like The Strokes and bust on the scene with a fresh sound, then naturally everyone is going to pay attention to you. However, the more attention is paid a band, the bigger they get. And the bigger they get, the more the ‘purists’ who were the first ones to like them now don’t like them. Kings of Leon is another good example of that. Apparently when you’re big enough to play Madison Square Garden then you’re simply no longer good at music. It seems logical. :: sarcasm ::
Speaking stylistically and musically, tracks that stand out amongst the rest on Comedown Machine are the opener “Tap Out” with its laid back, groovy feel, and “50/50” with its catchy guitar riff into and quick tempo. It’s a good example of being a throwback to The Strokes of 2001-2003. Also, as an aside and speaking aesthetically, the cover of this album is just plain cool.
Getting back on topic, Comedown Machine is a solid body of work. It may not have that magic that Is This It had, but then again The Hobbit didn’t have the same magic that the Lord of the Rings trilogy did, but it was still a darn good film. Comedown Machine is a classic example of how it is sometimes a bad idea to look at something in the context of its predecessors. Was Let It Be as good as Abbey Road or St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? No, but it’s still one of the greatest albums of all time. Now, Comedown Machine is still a ways off from being Let It Be, but the point has been made.