Friday, 29 March 2013

#73: The Strokes - Comedown Machine

New York-based band The Strokes really need no introduction. They've been making their garage-enthused rock 'n' roll since 2001, with their debut EP sparking one of the largest bidding wars amongst labels in recent history. Their first full length entitled Is This It has received global critical acclaim and earned the band numerous awards. Now 12 years, four albums and countless airmiles later, the band release their fifth studio albumComedown Machine. Not only is it a milestone album for the band, but it marks the end of the bands contract with RCA marking the end of an era, and the start of something new.

Going off the strength of album opener 'Tap Out' you could be forgiven for thinking The Strokes have fallen back in to the trappings of their ill-fated 4th album Angles. However there is something sufficiently more salient about 'Tap Out' than any of the songs featured on the aforementioned. However it is a departure from their garage-rock roots. Something that's upheld by the eclectic and unusually understated 'One Way Trigger' which features an erratic synth pattern and almost falsetto vocals. It's certainly different and a far cry from the Television-esque Is This It but there's still something about the track which remains particularly Strokes-like.

'Made in Japan' is particularly evocative of pre-First Impressions of Earth recordings. Casablancas' signature arrogant swagger is back in almost-full force, although there's a distinct lacking of confidence when compared to their earlier albums. The last minute of the track is easily the highlight as the song picks up and features some chunky bass work courtesy of Nikolai Fraiture.

If 'Made in Japan' is the band almost back to their roots then the track that follows '80s Comedown Machine' is certainly The Strokes we've all come to know and love. The chorus even dares to get heavier than most of their repertoire with a particularly lo-fi vocal making this easily one of the stand-out tracks from the album and a contender for a further single while '50-50- is a chance of pace and at a second under five minutes is also the longest track on Comedown Machine. It's understated vocals coupled with the excellently produced drums throughout make this a personal highlight and possibility of a classic in the making. Halfway through the song soars to unexpected highs and shines with an atypical aesthetic.

Without dissecting and analysing every single track on the album, it's difficult to convey just what this album sounds like. It's all at once undeniably The Strokes, but it's not The Strokes as you know them. Given their contract is up; this could be the band foreshadowing the road their planning on taking now they're free of the constrains of a label. There's still elements of the ballsy garage rock there, but there's also a newer, shinier veneer that the band have encased themselves in. The inclusion of a synth might well deter people who have buried their heads in the sands of the first two albums, certainly on their initial listens, but Comedown Machine is an album that will grow on you. From the preprogrammed Casio-beats to Casablanca's atypical vocal parts across the majority of the album, it's certainly a bold move for a band who's last album didn't fair nearly as well as those that preceded it, but if it's the music they want to make, who are we to stop them. Eclectic and erratic, different and dance-y, there's surely something for even the most stringent of fans.