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Album review: The Strokes, 'Comedown Machine'

*** (out of four)

A decidedly more '80s version of The Strokes shows up for "Comedown Machine," the New York outfit's fifth major release. How '80s is this record? It's so '80s that there's actually a song called "'80s Comedown Machine." It'd be a fantastic soundtrack to a John Hughes remake, which, given all the neon clothes lately, should be along any day now.

The lighter vocals and more traditional Strokes rock of first single "All The Time" sound so much like early albums "Is This It?" and "Room on Fire" that I had to stop and make sure I hadn't heard it years earlier. That's a positive thing for the song, but, bookended by the synth-heavy "Tap Out" and "One Way Trigger" at the start of the album, "All the Time" stands out like a sore thumb.

Unlike Jack White's "Blunderbuss," which created a perfect marriage between its rock and bluegrass tracks, the more traditional garage songs on "Comedown" feel like they belong on a different album. There isn't anything here I particularly dislike—though I'm not a huge fan of the glam decade to begin with. "Comedown" just might have benefitted from a different sequence.

But come on, this is rock, we're here to have some fun! On "Welcome to Japan," singer Julian Casablancas takes us on a futuristic ride through a distant land while asking important existential questions like: "What kind of asshole drives a Lotus?"

As with every Strokes record, the guitar work is outstanding, especially on "50 50" and "Partners in Crime," which shows off some really funky, almost ghostly sounds. "Call It Fate Call It Karma" reminds me of something you'd play at a really weird luau. Maybe in this Hughes adaptation, the "Breakfast Club" kids go to Hawaii. They'd probably be a lot less morose.

damoran@tribune.com  |  @redeyedana

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