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.