Since my musical acumen isn’t anywhere near the size or intensity of some audiophile’s, I sometimes feel more comfortable registering just my impressions with music. And what better band to kick off my Impressions category than with the Strokes; the band that brought us First Impressions of Earth. You may be asking yourself, Is This It? A bunch of stupid music puns? Mostly, but inbetween jokes I would like to say a few things about the Stroke’s new 2013 album, Comedown Machine.
Baggage – Coming into 2013 I know the Strokes have been around awhile now, I know Casablancas is rich and will probably do whatever the hell he wants, and I know most people consider the last album good but not a classic. Since rock is dead, I eagerly await any twitching of the corpse.
First impressions – Listening to the first few tracks on Comedown Machine, its unmistakable that they’re infusing something new into their sound compared to their last album, Angles, and this new element is the decade that brought us hardcore punk and neon. And synth, lots of synth. Yes friends, I speak of the 80’s. It works pretty well in my opinion. Synth and the 80’s in general is making a comeback (get it?) in the indie rock scene so it’s not surprising that the Strokes would be aware of these sounds again and interested in using them.
The album actually seemed pretty short so I was surprised when I looked up the track time. It clocks in at a respectable 39 minutes. After a full run through its clear that there’s no new Last Nights or Reptilias, although this seems to be because they’re consciously avoiding their old sound. Overall it’s a little more down tempo but easy to listen to and I didn’t mind when it repeated a few times in the CD player. After my Le Butcherettes CD finishes and goes to repeat I would knock over small children to press eject.
Feelings – Impressions with music are difficult because the first one or two times you hear a song its usual so alien. This can be especially uncomfortable when listening to a new CD from a band you love because you expect to be immediately. When you hear the usual sound and tempo on a song that’s a stranger it can leave you cold. The Strokes sort of avoid this trap by changing their sound just enough to be different without seeming like they’re “trying” something. Honestly it seems like a casual horizontal move musically for them, probably because they’re just bored. I have no way of knowing if this is true but what they’re doing works for me. The one song that sounds strongly like something from a previous album, All The Time, is actually very aggravating for me because I expect it to climax in the way the best of their songs do and it doesn’t quite get there. The rest of the album avoids this conflict. In particular I liked Tap Out, One Way Trigger, and 50/50 and really only actively dislike 80’s Comedown Machine, a slight ballad that I might be missing the point of. The lyrics remain unique and although I spent a lot of time talking about new sounds they are still very much in identifiably Strokes territory. I feel that in the future it would be pretty easy to slip this album into the rotation.