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 Everett True

A review of ‘Comedown Machine’ by The Strokes based only on the front cover

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The Strokes - Comedown Machine

People say you can’t judge a book by its cover… but presumably these people don’t work in the book trade. Or in marketing. Or in PR. Or write books themselves. Or buy them. Likewise, albums.

Yesterday, Wallace Wylie asked the question “Is it irresponsible to write an album review without having heard a single note from said album?” And also answered it. “Maybe. It would probably depend on the album.” Do I believe it’s irresponsible to write a review of the new album from New York’s formerly beloved The Strokes without having heard a single note from said album? Not at all.

The new album from The Strokes is called Comedown Machine. Look at the blunt utilitarianism of its album sleeve. The record label logo larger than (and placed above) the band logo, indicating a certain instinctual subservience to record label demands. The lack of recognisable artwork, indicating a lack of recognisable imagination. The way the sleeve has been put together by rote, indicating an album that has been recorded only reluctantly. The use of the faded red as background colour – here is a band that once considered themselves passionate, believing in the music they play, but now are uncertain. The directness of the handful of slogans in the bottom right hand corner: Extra Strength, Splice Free, Professional Standard… here is a band that pride themselves on the authenticity of their music, the conformity of their sound, who see no demerit in making music that adheres to a certain standard. The fact the album length is listed – and is considered more important than song titles, or artwork (and thus imagination) – is telling. Here is a band that take pride in being exact, do not consider spontaneity or the ability to mess with preconceptions to be at a premium when making rock’n’roll. Their music is supermarket fodder, created with precisely the same love and attention to detail as a pack of frozen peas, an ice cream Mr. Whippy. “Professional standard” (no deviation from the norm). “Splice free” (no additives). “Extra strength”, like a toilet roll advert.

So what should the consumer expect from Comedown Machine, the fifth album from The Strokes? Based on this cover, more of the same only less so. Go on, prove me wrong.

13 Responses to A review of ‘Comedown Machine’ by The Strokes based only on the front cover

  1. tim footman March 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Oooh dear. I tried to stick up for someone who did a similar thing with a Black Crowes album and the punters didn’t much like it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/feb/28/paintitblack

  2. Everett True March 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Fun article, Tim (and mostly I agree with it) – but there’s a crucial difference here. The Black Crowes reviewer was being dishonest, that’s why he was ultimately sacked. Neither myself nor Wallace (in yesterday’s review) are. In fact, we’re being transparent in admitting to the fact we haven’t heard the album. Indeed, that’s the whole point: can you judge a book by its cover? Why not. People often judge art or culture or music on far less.

    I conducted an (obvious) related experiment in my Sex Drugs Rock N Roll classes today, the result of which I’ll publish soon.

  3. In Demo March 21, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    So, less? meaning what?

  4. Daniel March 22, 2013 at 12:29 am

    That cover will probably never adorn a Whitney wall, but this is glib traffic bait. I had never thought CB was committed to only scratching surfaces.

  5. Everett True March 22, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Collapse Board: Scratching Surfaces Since 2010.

  6. wayne darron walls March 22, 2013 at 7:31 am

    After all, its what is below the surface that really counts…

  7. Lenzie Moss March 22, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Great. Thanks. This review makes me want to go out and buy it right now.

  8. Andy March 23, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Can we admit that the cover art for Shellac’s 1000 Hurts already played this recording materials as album art game better than anyone else has or will ever?

  9. Wallace Wylie March 23, 2013 at 8:37 am

    “sounds like to me Mr True your probably more into yourself than the actual music !”

    If I meet someone who is more into the new Strokes album than themselves I will definitely run like hell away from them.

  10. Fredo March 23, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    but, as the other guy already said, it’s clearly a reference to old reel covers, or session masters that have notes in the corner. Why in the blue hell would you ignore that when writing a review, it’s like you’ve never seen the inside of a studio or how tape reels work……..

  11. Everett True March 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    The album artwork concept of parodying archaic music presentation is both unoriginal and poorly conceived. I don’t see what relation it bears to The Strokes’ mus… oh wait. I get it now.

    Kudos to the designer.

  12. Gary Stafford April 2, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Its the strokes, one of the most over rated bands of a generation…

    Who gives a fuck, I mean really, seriously, who gives a fuck, the fucking strokes, one good song, if they where not little rich kids in the first place they could have dined out on that song, like, forever but as it is they never had too..

    I dont give a fuck about them,,,

    And yes I have seen them live, far to many times before anyone asks….

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