It seems a lot of people think that Comedown Machine is a step away from Angles and toward original Strokes releases, but I’m not entirely sure if I agree. I don’t know exactly how I feel about the album, but I’ll try to put it into words.
The first time I listened to The Strokes’ first release from this album, “One Way Trigger,” I honestly didn’t realize it was Julian Casablancas singing the falsetto. And then there’s the heavy synthesizer (hello, Phrazes for the Young) — which made me expect that this album would be even more drastic than Angles was. I like Angles, but I was worried.
Worried, I needn’t be. I said previously that this album seems like a step in the direction of Is This It or Room on Fire, and I can definitely see why it seems that way. “50/50” is so characteristically Strokes. Casablancas is almost mumbling and Nick Valensi’s guitar riffs nearly overpower Casablancas’ voice (I love when you almost can’t understand Casablancas in songs; “Evening Sun” is one of my favorite Strokes songs). “Slow Animals,” “Partners in Crime” and “Happy Ending” are also reminiscent of their classic sound, but at the same time, they are a bit forgettable.
Sometimes, while listening to the songs that Casablancas sings in a higher range — “One Way Trigger,” “Tap Out,” “Chances,” to name a few — I hate that he’s not singing in his deep, mesmerizing voice. At the same time, those three songs are some of my favorites on the album. However, even though I wish the heavy manipulation in some of the vocals wasn’t there, I enjoy all of it.
The vocal manipulation in the song “80’s Comedown Machine” honestly makes Casablancas sound like he belongs in Green Day. Maybe it’s the lyrics, but I actually like this song. I have such mixed feelings about this album.
“Welcome to Japan” is my favorite song from Comedown Machine. Casablancas starts off with his lazy, murmuring voice. I absolutely love the bridge — it might be my favorite part of the song. In the background, Valensi’s riff is so fast, staccato and beautiful against Albert Hammond, Jr.’s deeper, longer notes. During the chorus, Casablancas’ voice is mirrored by Valensi. I always think of The Strokes’ vocals as an instrument that blends with the others, and this just epitomizes that. All of the members’ intensity grows, which is why the song is so powerful at the end — it’s just perfect.
Overall, I really enjoy the album (The only song I don’t think belongs on the album is “Call It Fate, Call It Karma”). If I nit-pick or compare it to earlier Strokes albums, I won’t be satisfied, but I think it holds together really well.