The Strokes ‘Comedown Machine' (RCA)
The expectations placed on The Strokes are so gamed to predict failure that the downtown NYC band could put out a great album and not get due credit for it.
If they recorded an album that sounded like the precise garage rock of their landmark 2001 debut, critics would dismiss it as devoid of ideas, and if it was a total departure, many fans conditioned to expect more of the same from their pet bands would shrug their shoulders and move on.
For the most part, “Comedown Machine” is the latter. The Strokes barely sound like themselves on this fifth album, and when they do nod to “Is This It?” reasonable fans will wish they would stop.
They open with “Tap Out,” which, kid you not, is powered by a drum track seemingly modeled on either Michael Jackson's “Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'” or “The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” by Miami Sound Machine. But it works, kicking The Strokes into a skuzzy reverie, as does the hyperkinetic synth-pop on “One Way Trigger.”
The low-key tracks such as “80s Comedown Machine” and “Chances” go a long way toward expanding the band's sonic tools — Julian Casablancas' falsetto gets a huge workout on the latter.
Throwback rockers “50/50” and “All the Time” feel like concessions and neither is good enough to merit serious comparison to the superior material on “Is This It?” and “Room On Fire.” But not all the experiments work, either — the old-timey Tom Waits pastiche “Call It Fate, Call It Karma” plays like padding on an album that, at 38 minutes length, doesn't need it. But the fact that they try new things on “Comedown Machine” suggests that The Strokes don't think they need to sound exactly like they did 12 years ago, and deserve credit for challenging the rigged expectations game.
— George Lang