On 2011's Angles, the Strokes proved that they were interested in reinvention and growth. Rather than repeating themselves by restaging the sound of Is This It, Angles was eclectic, messy and quite often wonderful. Not every song worked, but the overall approach did.
Comedown Machine shows the band continuing in this new direction. Even if their albums now lack the steadfastness and aesthetic purity of their debut, the Strokes are a more interesting band for it. Plus, they're still essentially driven by nostalgia, except rather than pining for the years of classic garage rock, they're also reliving John Hughes-era new wave on songs like "Tap Out" and "Partners in Crime." Weirdly enough, the title track itself, "80s Comedown Machine," is the most derivative of the sound that made the Strokes famous.
Though this new direction suits the Strokes just fine, Comedown Machine has some forgettable songs that feel like B-side experiments. The closing track, "Call It Fate, Call It Karma," blends ambient minimalism with the sound of 1950s R&B ballads and is a fine novelty, but little more.
For folks who've stuck with the Strokes this long, Comedown Machine is pleasurable but not mind-blowing. Fans who want to see them stick to the garage rock pigeonhole will use this album as further evidence to dismiss them. Is This It is a fine album, but this weirder, looser version of the Strokes is a million times more compelling.