Remember when people thought the Strokes were going to save guitar rock? On Comedown Machine, the NYC group seems to realize those days are a distant memory and have given up trying to resurrect past glories. The band can still come up with strong hooks, and some of the 80s guitar rock references hit their mark, but the results are sabotaged by singer Julian Casablancas, who sounds like he's conserving all his energy and passion for his next solo record.
Casablancas always seemed distant and aloof even in the band's earliest days, but here he sounds like he made placeholder vocals while watching a baseball game on TV and then never got around to overdubbing the real take. You can literally hear some guy talking in the background of Casablancas's mumbling, an effect that might have some clever reason behind it but mostly just reinforces the perception that he's phoning it in. Or maybe their whole goal was to evoke the unfinished demos of a doomed, bloated 80s yacht rock band?
Top track: Welcome To Japan