The Strokes have unleashed a new album into the world and on first listen I can’t really grasp what their vision for the album was. Their guitar/synth mashup style has now seemingly eschewed their wall of fuzz trademark and Julian’s vocals are even more unintelligible than usual. On the opening track, Tap Out, it feels like the boys are gassed and are consciously trolling their fans, peers, and label. The song has the pep and bounce you would expect, but the formula is missing something. On previous efforts it felt as if The Strokes didn’t care an ounce and yet they combined that with an effortless sense of cool. Here it feels, at times, like they genuinely just don’t care.
Elsewhere on the album you can hear their genius. To be fair, I think this is the problem. When viewing The Strokes through the lens of their previous efforts it’s easy to say they’re coming up short. To label Comedown Machine (amazon) (itunes) as a poor effort is easy to do when you have Is This It sitting on the shelf. It’s the same routine that has plagued other bands like Weezer or even Arcade Fire. When your debut is so breathtakingly spot on everything you do after that will fall short of the impossible litmus test.
All of that is true, and yet this is still a fun album from The Strokes. It has some forgettable moments, but it also has a few songs that will stick with you and keep you trudging back through the full track list looking for that hidden spark. Still it’s songs and demos like the following that make me wish for what could still come from the New York boys.