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.