By now it’s well-known that The Strokes‘ best album is ten years old and there wont be much of a chance for part two to ever be released. But if they continue to sound forcefully capable, like on Comedown Machine, there really shouldn’t be much complaining. Although Angles was a success because of the band’s invigorated sound and their newfound approach, the ultimate fruition still left something to be desired. Regarding the aforementioned approach to Angles, where Julian Casablancas mostly communicated by e-mail and sent his vocals in the same manner throughout that album’s entire recording; on Comedown Machine, Casablancas is ubiquitous and as such, the music glistens with his sheer chemistry with the band. Fulfilling their five-album contract with RCA Records, the band is coyly inspired by the album’s cover to envelop a strong, solid “Strokes” sound. A song like “One Way Trigger” sounds refreshingly brisk and stellar with Casablancas’ falsetto and soft crooning – a lot of the vocals reach tremendous variations like on “Tap Out” and this time, much softer and hushed vocals. The balance among the band sounds equally visceral, with a lot of the songs showcasing a direct attack and release…in the end, Comedown Machine is surely a “Strokes” album.
The closing “Call it Fate, Call it Karma” sounds like an old Tom Waits classic off Swordfishtrombones but is instead infused with Casablancas’ swelling voice and the organ/keyboard underneath him. A lot of these songs rely on conventional strengths, like a robust chorus and entertaining verses with skillful guitar and bass playing, while still prevailing with a diversity that has really energized their last two albums, Comedown Machine definitely included. With “One Way Trigger” the keyboards dance along the walls as Casablancas recounts a lost relationship where he never felt truly appreciated, nor willing to oblige by a set of standards – his voice equally grows in anger and emotion as the song bursts around him. The drums are rapid and at the forefront, and the guitar solo after the chorus is something The Strokes had mastered by the time that aforesaid classic album, yes Room on Fire, was released. But what makes all of this a relished, winning combination is the band’s utter brilliance when it comes to changing the pace and flow of the album.
And still, maybe there wouldn’t have been an album to enjoy because some of the Strokes vowed to never record under the kind of conditions they embarked on with Angles. But if First Impressions of Earth was the bloated culmination of too much, too late, then Comedown Machine is the aftermath of the weight loss, with a cool hand at the controls. On “Slow Animals” you might wonder again if there is another singer sharing vocal duties, and like past greatness, the release is a definite highlight. On many songs, including this one, The Strokes develop an interplay between the rock instruments and some of the synthesizers where the styles can merge into what is The Strokes current brand of sound. And so now, like before, another roaring guitar solo and another introduction to a soaring chorus that towered already for the previous three minutes: either way, the winning combinations are in effect.
Like with most successful bands, the equal treatment of all members is key but many thrive on the swift chemistry that can be developed in the studio together. While a few songs are leftovers from Angles and some were churned out “like the good old days” as they put it, Comedown Machine is a terrific release to The Strokes first five albums. Definitely a band that has deserved their recognition and perhaps a band that doesn’t truly receive a due share of credit for still crafting solid and often, excellent, albums: whatever comes next will be welcomed. Until then, Comedown Machine represents a space in time that maybe The Strokes tried to declare with “80s Comedown Machine,” there’s a circulating amount of keyboards and drums and the ending feedback is not much of a reckoning, but the song’s core is dangerously unbreakable. Whichever method or machine they employ next, The Strokes has our attention; here’s to another ten years if they got it in them.