As I write this, I’ve listened to Comedown Machine three times in full and have exactly zero strong feelings about it. I’m listening to it right now, actually, and can’t even muster up much in the way of anger or adoration or, really, insight. This is troubling for a few reasons, both for me and The Strokes: 1) I’m three hours past deadline, 2) The Strokes were, at one point, my Absolute Favorite Band in the World, and 3) most importantly, if a record can’t inspire a former obsessive and current professional music writer to come up with 250 words on a deadline, well, that’s not a good sign.
The Strokes are and always have been something like the musical equivalent of the expensively undone, Lou Reed-as-styled-by-Marc Jacobs fashion aesthetic they cultivate, or maybe like the stoner in the back of class who never raises his hand, but when he does, says something remarkably insightful (both of which I was also, incidentally, a big fan of in high school). And Comedown Machine — which arrives twelve years after the band’s breakout debut, Is This It, and equally tellingly, at the end of the band’s five-year contract with RCA — is no different: It’s hard work masquerading as slackerdom, which, ultimately, doesn’t sound too different from just plain slackerdom. It’s perfectly pleasant and at times exceptional — especially “Slow Animals” and “50/50” — but at the end of the day, this is a Strokes album that sounds a lot like other Strokes albums. And here I am, now five hours past deadline, and I still can’t tell if that’s a good thing or not. (RCA)