When The Strokes arrived in 2001, reinvigorating American rock and kick-starting interest in New York City bands, they were laser-focused with their indie rock approach on their debut, "Is This It?"
Since then, they have become increasingly more scattershot.
On their fifth album, "Comedown Machine" (RCA), The Strokes are all over the musical map, seemingly influenced by everyone from Michael Jackson and A-ha to Nina Simone, with varying degrees of success.
They open with "Tap Out," which sounds like a combination of the rhythm track of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and the chugging guitars from any number of '80s New Romantic bands, while singer Julian Casablancas tries out numerous vocal identities, from falsetto to tough guy. "Welcome to Japan" follows a similar guitar scenario, landing them somewhere between Spandau Ballet and Friendly Fires.
If that sounds confusing, the singles situation isn't any clearer. There's the more expected "All the Time," where the band sounds the most like the "classic" Strokes, and the wildly unexpected "One Way Trigger," where the band uses A-ha's "Take On Me" as a jumping-off point, with plenty of Casablancas falsetto to punctuate the fun.
There are lots of ideas here, but The Strokes seem so impatient, they often don't stick with one for a whole song. The result sounds energetic, but "Comedown Machine" borders on frantic, as if everyone in the band is worried that if they don't bounce around, they'll lose interest themselves. The lovely "Call It Fate, Call It Karma" shows that those worries aren't just unfounded but may have been self-sabotage.
BOTTOM LINE Adventurous, but sometimes lost