Review Summary: They're Having Fun Again.
The 'Media Blackout' (no advertisements or promotion whatsoever) approach to the release of this album was very much a risky ordeal, maybe even more considering to be a let down in my eyes solely because this album deserved to be more in the spotlight. Not very many people were aware of the album coming out since there were no strong or hit singles released. "We just made a decision to keep a [lid on it]. We thought it'd be cool to keep a quietness to it, to see what a record would do [if you could only] listen to it." - Albert Hammond Jr. to NME on why there were no interviews or publicity around Comedown Machine. Sure it's nice they didn't want to get soaked up in drama with the release, but this is a comeback from their last two studio efforts and to be lesser known than the two is a disappointment.
The Strokes sound like they're finally having fun again. In a strange mixture of vintage synth-pop and a balance of mellow indie rock with their previously known signature garage rock sound, the band has returned with an effort that actually has a decisive style to it rather than First Impressions of Earth and Angles. In both of those two LP's, the outcome was all over the place although great songs were to be found in both of them. Comedown Machine feels more like a whole album much like Is This It or Room on Fire, just without the driving singles. Julian Casablancas' falsetto is wild and lo-fi with a more emotional touch to it as opposed to the gritty croon back in the early days. I miss that side of Julian's performance, however songs like "Tap Out", "Welcome to Japan", and the highly experimental "One Way Trigger" give an appreciation of the new route they are going and helps keep a good contrast in their discography with their impressive display of bouncing beats and polished yet crisp layers of guitars. There's really nothing that aggressive about Comedown Machine, as it relies more heavily on hooks and production. Take "80's Comedown Machine", as it is quite a standout, a polished and down tempo pop track with a gloomy and melancholy tone to the lyrics. Don't be alarmed though, there are plenty of memorable guitar riffs that balance out the indie pop aesthetic like, "All the Time" and "50/50" that bring out the rock side of Comedown Machine.
Of course Comedown Machine is no Is This It, but it doesn't have to be and I think The Strokes are better than that to go back to their original sound. Instead they've progressed to a nice point striking a balance of the band's love of post-punk grit and their new found admiration of indie projects. The album syncs all the songs together to feel like they all actually belong to the family and not just an off the wall compilation of thrown around tracks. Julian Casablancas proudly whispers on the final song, "Call it Fate, Call it Karma" in which he states, "You got it down now, don't you"" They certainly do. Once you've accepted the polarizing sound of Comedown Machine not sounding like hits such as "Reptillia" and "Someday" there is a great experience of fun and unorthodox produced tracks that hopefully work their way into becoming fan favorites as time passes.