It’s not totally clear why the Strokes make albums, is it? They don’t seem to enjoy it much, and they aren’t exactly bursting with innovative musical ideas that demand to be let loose. Yet the records aren’t worthless – far from it. Comedown Machine is basically a solo trip for singer Julian Casablancas, showing yet again how much he respects Eighties New Wave. Why is Comedown Machine an official Strokes album instead of another Casablancas solo album? Only a Stroke could tell you.
Eighties synth-pop is always a stretch for this guy, given that his songwriting tends to be narrow with melody and clunky with beats. He begins strong in “Tap Out,” a DeBarge tribute with a cheese-guitar solo straight out of Lionel Richie’s “Running With the Night.” “One Way Trigger” ineptly rips A-ha, and “80’s Comedown Machine” aims for the softer side of Howard Jones. “Welcome to Japan” is merely the most obvious of the many Duran Duran-indebted moments. (Great question, too: “What kind of asshole drives a Lotus?”) But ballads like “Chances” prove he still can’t sing falsetto. And just to remind you of his pretensions, he ends with a painful Tom Waits parody, although Waits would get a 1D tattoo before he’d resort to a song title like “Call It Fate, Call It Karma.”