Comedown Machine review by The Strokes

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  • Released: Mar 25, 2013
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7 Good
  • Users' score: 8.1 (95 votes)
The Strokes: Comedown Machine

Sound — 7
The Strokes formed in NYC and released their debut album, "Is This It", in 2001. Their initial sound was a refreshing melodic garage rock sound that made a nice contrast to the nu-metal that was prevalent at the time. Since then The Strokes have had their ups and downs, solo and side projects, and changes to their overall sound. From album to album the biggest change was with the release of the album "Angles" in 2011. Their fourth studio release, "Angles", was the first release in 5 years when it came out and brought a much more polished sound than their previous releases, also being a good deal more eclectic, but still absolutely The Strokes. "Comedown Machine" is the fifth studio release by The Strokes, and almost unrecognizable as themselves when compared to their earlier releases. There are 11 tracks on the album with a runtime of just under 40 minutes. The first single from the album was the track "All The Time" and was released on 02/14/2013.

I went into this album expecting something along the lines of what The Strokes gave us with "Angles", but what I got was something different. After my first listen I just wrote down some words like free association to describe the album the one that came out first was New Wave. I'm not saying that "Comedown Machine" is New Wave music, necessarily, but there are definitely elements of the genre throughout the album. While there are a lot of electronic elements on the album, you can still hear the guitars throughout and some of the "keyboard" sounds are probably guitar played to sound like keyboard (similar to the same trick that Valensi used on the track "12:51" from the album "Room On Fire"). Probably the closest track to the sound I think of as The Strokes on this album is the single "All The Time". As I listened to the album I was not pulled in at first, but at the core you can still hear the voice of The Strokes if you listen hard enough. This album may alienate some fans, but personally it grew on me more and more with subsequent listens.

Lyrics — 7
Julian Casablanca's vocals are delivered with less force than I am used to hearing from him. Through most of the album there is an almost soft, silky texture to his singing. This singing style does fit the album fairly well, but I personally enjoy his voice more when he is really belting out his lyrics. On the track "Chances", he even sings part of the song in falsetto. There are, of course, moments when Julian's vocal delivery is more in line with his familiar belting delivery, such as a few lines in "All The Time" and "Partners In Crime". Albert Hammond, Jr and Nick Valensi do a solid job with backing vocals on the album, but nothing that really stands out as phenomenal.

A lot of the lyrics on the album seem pretty random to me, and when they aren't random they are still pretty surreal. As a sample from the track "Tap Out" we have: "They found our city under the water/ gotta get my hands on something new/ you don't want to be without this/ something isn't adding up." Then, here is some more randomness from the track "Chances": "When the night isn't ready for you/ it's a feeling I know that dogs you/ they invited a stewardess, too/ now they want you to see it/ here's to days he decides he's got time/ and he claims that it's not a surprise/ when he finds out the truth is on his side." Maybe I'm not hearing these lyrics right like I'm missing key words that make these lyrics all fit in together and say something. Or maybe these songs are so "deep" that they're going over my head. Regardless, the lyrics are what they are, and the syllables fit the music so I guess that is okay.

Overall Impression — 7
This isn't going to be one of my "top picks of 2013" for sure but it isn't bad. As I listened to the album with an open mind it grew on me little by little. My favorite tracks from the album would probably have to be "All The Time", "50/50", and "Partners In Crime". My least favorite would probably be the opening track, "Tap Out". I've had a love/hate relationship with the track "Happy Ending" because something about it brought to mind "Take On Me" by A-Ha in a way that was really distracting, but the song was catchy in a pleasant kind of way. I found myself initially feeling nostalgic for The Strokes I came to know with "Is This It", but as I listened to the album I did hear the value in this album. It isn't holding my attention like their earlier stuff did and is probably my least favorite album they've released, but there were high points in the album, too. The guitar work was pretty original and I really enjoyed the few short solos, especially on the track "Tap Out" despite disliking the rest of the song. In the end I have very mixed feelings about the album, and I don't want to discourage anyone from listening to it, but don't expect to hear the new "Last Nite" on here.

33 comments sorted by best / new / date

    from the album cover, you cant reallly tell who their record label is.....
    haha I thought the same... I figured it was an attempt to make a "vintage" looking album but I best most people see it as "selling-out"
    It reminded me of what The Beatles did back in the day with "Back to the USSR", probably some tongue-in-cheek there Love the album, despite being very skeptical after the singles (especially the one with Julian's falsetto).
    I like One Way Trigger > All The Time diggin the new vocal style on that track!
    The first single was pretty damn good ("One Way Trigger"), but I haven't heard any more than that. A few people I know who work at the local JB who have listened to it through said it was over all disappointingly average
    Disappointingly average is right. It's not a bad album, and I wasn't expecting a copy of an earlier album, but you just expect a band that has proven how much talent they have to release something better.
    In all honesty, the album is better than "Angels", but not by much. A few of the songs literally sound like Michael Jackson songs, with some DEVO thrown in. Very "Angels" like in terms of the dancy-new wave rhythms, but I personally hate how Julian's voice has become more "low-key" (With the exception of the song "80's Comedown Machine" and possibly "All the Time"). I love the band more than words can describe, and while I can understand experimenting and getting into new things, I think The Strokes are best suited sticking with their guns. They could re-make "Is This It" and "Room on Fire" 10 more times and I wouldn't care. That is definitely their niche and they should keep it that way. All in all, my first impression of the album was that it was nothing more than a sad attempt to bring back the 80's. I will always love them for making "Is This It", "Room on Fire", and "First Impressions of Earth". The transition from "First Impressions of Earth" to "Angels" was once of the craziest and most drastic transformations that I have ever heard from a band. Always next album I suppose...
    listen more carefully, there are a lot of their roots in this album... no it's not Is This It, but songs like Tap Out, All the Time, Welcome to Japan, and 80's Comedown machine carry everything people have come to love about the strokes. The difference is theyve added more groove, more keyboard, Julians falsetto, and much more developed guitar work. This album may not sound like a 2001 album, but all the roots form Is This It are present in this new album, and I think more so than on any other album including Room On Fire.
    I strongly disagree with what you call "developed guitar work"... cleaner production perhaps, but not more developed by any means. The guitar work on "First Impressions of Earth" is FAR more developed. This is just not their best album.
    This won't take the world by storm because the world don't like good music...The Strokes are still the masters. Just listen to 80s Comedown Machine and appreciate the almost renaissaunce sounding chords (similar to the solo in Julian Casablancas 'Glass'). Is This It has been done, enjoy the new sounds of the best in the business!!
    I like All The Time... I've been a fan of the band since they broke in, but nothing seems to live up to Is This It or Room On Fire. Still, I appreciate that they are mixing it up some. We can always pop in the older records to hear their older sound.
    You cannot honestly say that ALL of their albums have sucked... unless bands like The Strokes aren't your style. In that case, why are you even commenting?
    one way trigger has grown on me and all the time is pretty good. i hope its more stuff like all the time though and not one way trigger. didnt like most of that kind of stuff that they did on angles
    Agreed. I almost feel like the band needs to change their name if they are going to put out some of these new songs. It definitely sounds like another band (with the exception of Nick's always stellar lead guitar work).
    I'm not bashing your response, but isn't part of the point of creating music to grow creatively? If bands had to stick to one sound per band name, then Radiohead would be up to their 9th name.
    That's a great point and I would agree 100% that creative "growth" is natural in music. But what I see for The Strokes is more "change" and less "growth". There is a difference. Radiohead has grown immensely in creativity with every album, but I wouldn't necessarily say that they have "changed". Radiohead is so creatively experimental but ultimately retain their Radiohead vibe. It's tough to compare two bands like Radiohead and The Strokes. I just think that The Strokes have lost their vibe.
    I seem to remember after Angles came out, they said how clunky it was and kind of disowned it. This record sounds like another go at the same style but they nailed it this time.
    Yeah, I hadn't heard that, but can see what they mean. They were all in the studio together this time and I don't think they was the case on Angles? I'm loving the "new" Strokes and All The Time is probably my least favourite song on the album because it just sounds like another old song, like they're another band trying to copy The former Strokes. Whereas other people said this album is more of a grower - and I agree with some songs - I think less so than Angles. I love the instant dance-ability Tap Out, One Way Trigger, Welcome To Japan, Happy Ending and 50/50 have
    I could very easily be wrong on the disowning-it part, but yeah, for Angles they worked separately and would send each other ideas and not write stuff in one central location as a band. And I'm with you, a lot of people seem to be loving All The Time, One Way Trigger's my favourite off the entire record and Tap Out may be one of my favourite tracks they've released. That groove.
    Definitely a solid 7.5 - there are some great songs on this album. Honorable mentions: Welcome To Japan, Happy Ending, and Chances.
    Stop comparing everything to Is This It. Seriously it's really making me angry. Nobody wants a band to stay the same. This album is brilliant. I don't mean to offend anyone it's just I don't get why everyone just compares their stuff to Is This It. It must suck to start off with such a great album because now no matter how much they try people are just gonna compare it to Is This it. Room on Fire? No it sucks compared to Is This it. First Impression? No it sucks compared to Is This It. Angles? nope Is This It. Seriously guys please all of their albums are amazing. Just listen to them don't compare... I'm sorry i just started rambling XD ...Ramble On...
    No one is comparing everything to Is This It. On the contrary to what you said above, I personally believe that SOME bands should stay the same, to a certain degree. It's definitely possible to experiment within your own genre or "vibe". Is This It, Room On Fire, and First Impressions of Earth are probably some of the most groundbreaking and influential ROCK albums of their decade. Key word being "rock". Angels (with the exception of the BRILLIANT Under Cover of Darkness) and Comedown Machine (with the exception of All the Time and 80's Comedown Machine) are not great albums. These guys are super talented at what they do, so why randomly switch to cheesy digital 80's throwback music? That was a musical decade that for the most part (with the exception of Pixies, Stone Roses, Fleetwood Mac, etc.) that would be better off forgotten. The Strokes need to get back to their rock roots and make another kick ass album worthy of their name and talent.
    It took multiple listens for me to really appreciate this one. It's not really fair to compare it to Is This It or Room on Fire- they've almost completely changed their style since then (with the exception of maybe Welcome to Japan). Take this album for what it is. Julian's vocals really surprised me on this album, but I like it!
    How about the transition from "First Impressions of Earth" to "Angels". Their natural progression from "Room on Fire" to "First Impressions of Earth" was heading towards a more dark, guitar/vocal driven music. Then they went and got all electronic and almost "video game music" like.
    Similair sounding in terms of the sound of the intstruements or production to Frusciante's 'PBX'. I love both and it excites me that I get a sense of unity about the new music being made. It's like 80's revisited but calmer and no bombastic reverb on the drums and you can hear all the individual parts more clearly. This could be in large part because both albums are digitally recorded and it was analog in the 80's.