From the moment Is This It? dropped in 2001 The Strokes’s retrofitted sonic palette appeared destined to be the musical equivalent to the law of diminishing returns – factor of production (i.e., more albums) while other factors held constant (i.e., the band’s sound) then returns would diminish.
“Is This It?” erected a monument to bored, disenfranchised, effortlessly cool garage rock so immediate, so timeless, so staggering that it promised to cast a shadow over all the NYC quintet’s future recordings. Their trajectory seemed clear. Imagine a graph where the first line touches the ceiling, and all subsequent lines are jockeying, in vain, to stand as tall.
And yet The Strokes’ career has confounded convention despite the band’s seeming unwillingness to experiment. Sophomore album Room On Fire proved a worthy successor to Is This It? Third album First Impressions of Earth lacked inspiration for the most part but fourth album Angles recaptured some of the old, drunk at 4 in the morning Strokesian spirit that existed, ya know, before the band members had wives and children.
Their fifth album, Comedown Machine, doesn’t hit stores for another month, but if “One Way Trigger” and “All The Time” – the first two tracks released – are any indication, this could be the album where the law of diminishing returns kicks into high gear for the Strokes. If that’s the case, The Strokes should retire after Comedown Machine – at least as a studio outfit – rather than continue to recycle from their past albums and drift toward irrelevance.