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The Strokes - The machine coughs and splutters along,
on 15 April 2013
So it turns out The Strokes were actually an eighties pop band masquerading as the Velvet Underground? The unfortunately named `Comedown Machine' is for all intents and purposes a Julian Casablancas solo album which owes as much of a heavy debt to Midge Ure as it does John Cale. It essentially picks up where "Angles" left off which will delight some and send others into a dark despair not least in displaying some of the worse album covers of recent years.
Opener `Tap Out' should see the brilliant French pop band Phoenix consult their lawyers for copyright infringement; the truly awful `One Way Trigger' sounds like A'Ha attending remedial poetry class, while the title track could herald the start of the Howard Jones revival. Three songs save this album from descending into the ordinary and remind you that when the elements come together the Strokes cut the mustard. These are the excellent dark power pop `All The Time', the stinging punk rock of `50:50' and the mellow loveliness of `Chances'. Perhaps, in extending the milk of human kindness, a tick in the box could also go to the risky experimentation on the last song `Call It Fate, Call It Karma', but frankly a one-off listen to this should satisfy even the most charitable member of the Casablancas fan club. Bands like The Killers and the Strokes have taken to plundering the 1980s and producing albums which are either dire (Day And Age) or average (Angles). If you really want to hear this kind of music done brilliantly with real energy, originality and verve buy music by Phoenix, Crystal Castles or Radio Dept.
The Strokes have in effect turned into a very decent pop band, which is fine, but they started promising something genuinely exciting, bold, forward thinking and potentially life-affirming. Apologies to die-hard Strokes fans who will undoubtedly view these comments as unhelpful, but if you honestly felt "Is this It' or for that matter the vastly underrated "Room on Fire" were seminal feasts in which to indulge your finest musical tastes, `Comedown Machine' by comparison is like cold rice pudding with brown skin on top.