The Strokes blow a gasket on ‘Comedown Machine’

The Strokes have released their fifth album, “Comedown Machine,” almost exactly two years to the date from their last release. The guys haven’t wasted any time coming up with new songs, but if “Comedown Machine” shows anything, perhaps a little more time would have been beneficial.

The album is clearly a departure from typical styles from the get-go of “Tap Out”. Vocally, Julian Casablancas’ falsetto takes some getting used to, and the blips of keyboard introduced for a band that has typically stayed a meat-and-potatoes type of garage rock band. These changes are best, or worst, showcased on “One Way Trigger.”

Where the band shines the brightest on “Comedown Machine” is on tracks like “All the Time,” and maybe that’s because it sounds so much like The Strokes. It’s debatable what Strokes album has been the most successful, but their third release, 2006’s “First Impressions of Earth” was one of their more expansive records in terms of keyboard usage, in which the subtleties worked well. The payoff isn’t on the new release. Those catchy hooks the Strokes can be so good at really don’t show their face as much as they should to keep a listener coming back.

For instance, “Partners in Crime” is too much a mid-tempo track driven by whirling synthesizers that leans on the vocals to carry the track,. The Strokes have not been known for their heart-warming singing and it’s pretty implausible to consider it a possibility down the road, let alone at this junction. It just doesn’t come full circle here.

Where they’re more successful is on tracks like “Welcome to Japan,” a danceable track with a disco drum rhythm. It strays from the normal beat the band swaggers to, but it isn’t such an outlandish leap. The snotty, snarky lyrics on the track work great in the catalog of Strokes songs.

Overall, Albert Hammond Jr. is under-represented on the guitar, most notably the second half of the record, which is a shame, since he always has some real neat work on the neck.

“Comedown Machine” is not the kind of spark The Strokes were looking for in 2013. A lot of the places they go to on the record just don’t pan out. The Strokes have always been known for their guitars and hooks, and neither rear their heads in a powerful fashion. On the plus side, if you’re determined to check out the record, in the traditional Strokes style of a relatively short album (39 minutes), it kind of goes in one ear and straight out the other.