Monday, April 1

Album Of Last Month

The Strokes 'Comedown Machine' (RCA)

A new album from The Strokes will always be something worth getting giddy over. They saved the world from taking Badly Drawn Boy (too) seriously and made the Gallagher Bros look about as cool as Screech Powers when they surfaced in the early '00s. But after Angles - that bummer of a last album which, amid the band supposedly hating each other and their gazillions of side-projects, took five years to arrive - the suspense for a fifth record is sadly met with as much suspicion as it is confidence. What they've always done well, though, is a lead single. And 'One Way Trigger' (not technically Comedown Machine's lead single, but the first song released) is spot-on; singer Julian Casablancas sissies his deep tones to Timberlake territory aboard classically perky guitar lines and refuses to "settle down out of town, find a dream, shut it down". This back-to-fun mantra is let down by the okay-ish actual lead single 'All the Time', however, with a riff eerily dull and zigzagging synths we can't help but feel we've heard before. Still, the great news is we have some of the best Strokes songs for years on here. 'Welcome to Japan's enlightened dance grooves are sharp enough to soundtrack the city of Paris; JC's girl quarrels ("I will not wait up for you anymore so you can ask me if something is wrong") on the dreamy 'Chances' are absorbing; the sentimental, organ-led '80's Comedown Machine' is boldly mushy but it works. Not since second album Room on Fire have this band sounded this fresh and in unison... what a relief. There are times when their playfulness gets the better of them, naturally. '50/50' is a little too short to fall for and its grimy guitars feel lost among everything else that's going on. And final track 'Call it Fate, Call it Karma' is just strange; its pulpy keys take us to the realm of Boardwalk Empire only after everyone's dead and the music box is on its way out. Most of Comedown Machine, though, is The Strokes charged, adventurous and with their heads on straight. It's not their finest ever work, but it's their best in a while.