So a whole week before it’s official release the new Strokes album is (legitimately) unleashed on the world. I tried to wait until Monday 25th for the release. I did. But I had this feeling that everyone in the world had heard Comedown Machine and had an opinion on it but me. So I folded.
Happily I can report that in this Strokes fans’ eyes it doesn’t disappoint. I enjoyed Angles but felt that maybe a couple of the ideas on it didn’t seem quite fully formed. Here they seem developed and realised. Don’t get me wrong, nothing on here is quite as instant as Strokes circa 2001-05; the songs take a little while longer to unlock. But it is a rewarding experience. The tightly woven guitar interplay between Hammond and Valensi are all present and correct, it’s just the synthy spaces around them are far more expansive. Fraiture and Moretti drive the album to funky (yeah I said it) realms that they’ve never been before, and it works. The thing to take on board and enjoy is that this is a different band than before there 5 years hiatus. they had to evolve with the musical landscape around them. The scene they created has long moved on and so they had to adjust. Casablancas sings probably around 75% of the tracks in a much higher vocal range than before and has a velvety tone which works with the slinky 80’s vibe. The polarising ‘One Way Trigger’ makes more sense in the context of things.
Once you get used to Strokes mark 2 there are some real gems to be found here. Opener ‘Tap Out’, ‘Welcome To Japan’ and penultimate track ‘Happy Ending’ work this new style well and showcase just how tight they sound again as a collective. Noughties nostalgics are catered for also with “All The Time” and “50/50” which sounds like a blend of their cover of The Clash’s “Clampdown” with a chorus that could have come from The Distillers Coral Fang.
There are strange moments too. “Chances” is The Strokes first full on ballad, “Partners In Crime” sounds almost psychy and could have come off of MGMT’s Congratulations and that’s without mentioning closer “Call It Fate Call It Karma”. The track sounds like a mix between Casablancas’ demo version of You Only Live Once with some of the sunshine lounge croon of Albert Hammond Jr’s “Hard To Live In The City” from his solo Yours To Keep.
They sound confident, fun and tight. I’m excited about where they go next. Listen to the Pitchfork Advance stream of Comedown machine below.