Julian, we need to have a talk about your band's new album. I just don't understand what you're doing. The synths and new waviness, the extreme falsetto, the lack of guitar, and that bizarre, old timey song at the end of the record -- what's going on here? What happened to the Strokes?
When Is This It, The Strokes' debut album, was released in the fall of 2001, rock fans were blessed with an album full of true rock and roll gems. The album has a distinct point of view and featured instant classics like "Last Nite" and "Someday," which had sharp, catchy, stuck-in-your-head guitar riffs, punked-out drums and Julian Casablancas' twisted croon. He was the '00s answer to a Jim Morrison figure with a hit of Iggy Pop and a lot of wonderful grit. With the help of bands like The White Stripes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Hives, The Strokes launched a much-needed garage rock revival.
Though not quite as excellent, The Strokes released two solid follow-ups to their debut album, which advanced them further on their mission of producing great rock music. Then after a six-year hiatus, during which most of the band members recorded music in side project bands, they released a new album, Angles. This was the album that first introduced us to a new wave-inspired Strokes band. I personally wasn't a fan of portions of it, but a few of the songs were great, like "Taken for a Fool" and "Gratisfaction."
And now, two years later, we have the Strokes' most recent album, Comedown Machine, released on March 26th. "All The Time," the album's first single, was my introduction to Comedown. Although I don't dislike this song, it's just an OK song, not a great one. My biggest problem with it is that there's very little passion. It sounds as if someone programmed a computer to write a Strokes song.
Then we make our way onto songs like "One Way Trigger" and "Welcome to Japan," which crank up the synth and falsetto. Personally, I'm not a huge new wave fan. Music from bands like a-ha and The Human League make my ears bleed and I'd prefer to pretend that that genre from the '80s never happened.
But I get their point. They wanted to try something different. They're perhaps tired of writing the same kind of rock music and wanted to branch out a bit. But instead of creating an album with a new, clear point of view, they've created an album that just seems... lost. It wanders and experiments with sounds and genres. It makes an attempt, but in no way does this feel like a finished, cohesive record.
There are a few saving moments on the album though. "'80s Comedown Machine" has some simple, beautifully-crafted synths that highlight Julian's vocals nicely. "50/50" is a cool punk rock song that features a gritty, distorted vocal and hooky guitar riffs. "Partners in Crime" has more of a classic Strokes feel to it with tight guitars and a distinct direction.
But then we return to songs like "Slow Animals" and "Chances," which seem more dated than an '80s prom dress and make me cringe.
What happened, Strokes? What happened to the great rock music you guys used to make? Or is this only a phase? God, I hope so.
This article was originally published here.