StrokesAlbum.jpgTHE STROKES: Comedown Machine
RCA, 40 minutes
Rating: 4/5

Before Is This Is? (2001), the Strokes signed a five-album deal, which Comedown Machine fulfills. That may explain why it’s called Comedown Machine, why its artwork features the letters R, C and A so prominently, why it sounds like the work of five guys trying — and mostly succeeding — to stave off boredom, and why it even exists in the first place.

Because no one buys albums anymore and the Strokes don’t seem entirely keen on making them (or continuing to exist as a band at all), its reasons for being are a bit archaic and unpleasant. But perhaps owed to a final-lap energy boost, Comedown Machine is the most interesting work they’ve done since Room On Fire (2003). It works by casting a wide net: there are pre-rock homages (“Call it Fate, Call it Karma”), new wave grooves (“Chances”) and bitter screeds (“Welcome to Japan”). Not surprisingly, the band sounds most bored when trying to fulfill listeners’ ideas of what a Strokes song should actually sound like (“Partners in Crime,” “All the Time”).

As someone who’s only listened to the Strokes casually, maybe the band’s current last-ditch, why-not attitude is more appealing to me than a more dedicated fan. Maybe some would rather see the Strokes literally copy themselves, but at least they didn’t finish their deal like lazy chumps.

HotAsSunCover.jpgHOT AS SUN: Night Time Sound Desire
Last Gang, 47 Minutes
Rating: 3/5

The grind of music publicity means critics might listen to upwards of five to 10 new albums in a given week. This gives a disproportionate emphasis to songs that are instantly catchy over those that reveal their quality over time.  

Hot As Sun’s second album Night Time Sound Desire is all hook and no bait. Its perpetual catchiness is a lure, but can start to feel like a trap. In this case, the listener is trapped inside a sun-lit beach party that never ends, but trapped nonetheless.

Opener “Dance to the Beat” is, for better or worse, the most immediately memorable new single I’ve heard this year. It only took one listen to claim territory in my brain, but it wouldn’t leave. After a week, I’d hummed its hook so incessantly it lost any meaning. Night Time Sound Desire repeats this trick 12 more times.

It's a relatively long album, and it’s not hard to tell where Hot As Sun could’ve applied their scissors; the passable “Daydreams” and “Dime in the Pocket” drag the party out when it should be wrapping up, and its front-loaded sequencing buries the back-end keeper “Desert Song.” But let no one say Hot As Sun isn’t memorable to the bitter end.

MfMbCover.jpgMF / MB /: Colossus
Adrian Recordings, 46 minutes

Rating: 3.5/5

If you knew before reading this sentence that the word “colossus” literally refers to a large statue, you might like the new MF / MB / album. It’s ideal rock music for people who like looking at very big things with a sense of reverence.

With six members, lavish, loud production and a grasp of the English language that favours terse, inspirational statements over making sense, Colossus threatens to overwhelm the listener. But MF / MB/ have a strong foundation in vocalist Victor Nilsson. When he isn’t singing from under water (“Art & Soul”) or standing in the way of a fine Kraut-rock rhythm (“Casualties”) his mix of tenderness and boldness brings the humanity out of these bombastic songs.

Colossus kind of forces you to stand in awe of it, whether you feel the need to or not. Even at its most low-key (“You Were the Last One to Do Such a Thing”), it's still quite big and dramatic. A monument to the very idea of monuments, perhaps. But it’s rarely boring, and like all big things, hard to turn away from.

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