“Comedown Machine” – The Strokes / “My Shame Is True” – Alkaline Trio

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It seems like only yesterday that NYC rockers The Strokes released Angles. But the band is already back with their fifth studio album, titled Comedown Machine.

The overall feel of this album is the same feeling you get from looking at the album artwork (see above); I would describe it best as a feeling of mediocrity. Album opener “Tap Out” starts off with the beginnings of what might have been a wicked guitar riff, but it unexpectedly turns into a slow groove that lasts for the entire song. “All The Time” sounds like pretty classic Strokes to me. No wonder they picked it as the album’s first single.

While listening through this album, I began to miss the quirky, yet not entirely goofy sound that The Strokes encapsulated with their best hits, like oldie “Last Nite” and the more recent “Under Cover Of Darkness.” I got a little bit of these vibes from “Welcome To Japan” and the groovy bridge of “Slow Animals” off of the new album, but it wasn’t very fulfilling. “50/50” deserves to be pointed out as well because it’s actually a good deal heavier than most of the Strokes that I listen to. The rapid drumming and harsh vocals from Julian Casablancas (though mostly due to the overdrive effect on his mic) contribute to the punk vibe of the song.

Unfortunately, this ends the positive criticism of Comedown Machine. The rest of the album is, simply put, very bland and not worth a second listen. The Strokes steal a few tricks from Radiohead and The Killers, though they are unable to compete; Casablancas’ falsettos on “Chances,” “Tap Out,” and most of this album are nearly unlistenable. The band tries to go for their quirky sound on songs like “Partners In Crime” and “One Way Trigger,” but they overshoot and come across as just plain goofy. And I’m really not sure what they thought they were doing by choosing “Call It Fate, Call It Karma” as the closing track. They really go out with a whimper on this one.

Comedown Machine has at most a handful of tracks that may sneak their way onto your iPod, but if you’re looking for some advice on this one, I would avoid buying the full album unless you’re a die hard Strokes fan.

-Joe MacPhee

Recommended Jams: All The Time, Welcome To Japan, 50/50

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ImageDescendents drummer Bill Stevenson was in charge of production for My Shame Is True, the latest Alkaline Trio offering. He has produced many great records, and his work on this record is certainly up to par.

The record opens with “She Lied To The FBI,” a very Ramones-inspired track that sets a nice pace for the record. My biggest gripe for this record is the vocals. The reverb makes most of the faster songs’ lines unintelligible. “Kiss You To Death” slows things down after three speedy punk jammers. I have to say the music on this feels like a solid return to the Alkaline Trio of yore, yet it’s not a total regression; it’s like an alternate progression. Let’s pretend that Agony And Irony never happened. This record could have been the more independent followup to Crimson. “The Temptation Of St. Anthony” contains a groovy bass break, which is surrounded by extremely tight drumming and guitar. There is a very dark mood encapsulating the record. The music is some of their most frenzied, along with somber ballads. The artwork also projects a gothic Andy Warhol vibe. No pun intended, as they have a song sharing his namesake.

“Midnight Blue” is easily my favorite track on the album. Guitarist Matt Skiba’s croon is full of yearning and remorse as he laments his lost love. The tambourine shake is nice as well. “Young Lovers” is another great track towards the end of the record. These latter album tracks provide a nice contrast from the emo chaotic storm in the middle of the record.

These lyrics make sense unlike most of the lyrics of the past couple of records, and knowing that Matt just went through a divorce adds merit to songs like “Until Death Do Us Part.” This was definitely a good record and a fine addition to Alkaline Trio’s discography.

-Matthew Koerner

Recommended Jams: Midnight Blue, I’m Only Here To Disappoint, Kiss You To Death

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