Comebacks are a strange thing in the music business, you never know quite what you’re going to get. With The Spice Girls, for example, you get nothing, they sing a few songs at a big event, Victoria Beckham will maintain a face that looks like a slapped arse because she’s so above all the other members and the tabloids will write of in-fighting and hatred. Whereas, on the other side of the spectrum you have someone like The Smashing Pumpkins a band desperately attempting to prove that they can still write good music and not have to rely on their back catalogue. The Strokes’ comeback in 2011 with Angles was a much harder thing to make full sense of, while it contained flashes of a new wave of Strokes music it also couldn’t seem to get far enough away from their old style, it was a strange album; enjoyable but somehow lacking. This week The Strokes followed it up with the release of Comedown Machine, perhaps an album that makes it easier to understand why they decided to come back in the first place.
Right from the off it becomes a lot clearer what we’re getting here. The signature lo-fi style of the bands seminal record Is This It? is apparent throughout and any kind of experimentation that was to be found on Angles is not anywhere to be seen. Comedown Machine has a few stand-out moments where a guitar solo will rip through a melody catchy enough that you find yourself humming along on your first ever listen. There is not a track on the album that I could say I don’t like, but for some reason as with Angles, there is something lacking. With Angles, though, I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong and still can’t now with Comedown Machine I know exactly what it is; there is nothing new here. The record sounds very much like a band on auto-pilot. A band that in their prime re-defined indie music and have a lasting influence as one of the genre’s greatest bands, their initial split came at the right time I feel as their third album, First Impressions of Earth, proved that they all wanted to try something different. As they went off into their separate careers none of them found the same kind of success they had with The Strokes and with Comedown Machine it seems like a band who have caved in to the industry, they don’t want to do anything new because people complain, if they go off and do other projects people don’t care so what they’re going to do is give us what they think we want. They sound like a band bored and uninterested in what they’re doing any more ultimately making The Strokes Mark II rather a shame in the end.
That said the album is still a decent listen even they are on auto-pilot it just a shame that more risks weren’t taken. I could wrong, but from the evidence so far I don’t think The Strokes should ever have returned if they wanted to maintain the status they once had and it’s only a matter of time before they bring out a record that doesn’t get by on the same formula.