The Strokes have always been privileged, confused young men, muddled in ambivalence and a healthy dose of the fuck-its. It’s what made their 2001 debut so very special – a breed of nonchalant NYC punk ignoring every open door in chase of some purist feeling. “I can’t think ’cause I’m just way too tired,” cooed a then 22-year-old Julian Casablancas, so undeservingly asking, “is this it?” The combination of Casablancas’ armchair aggression and team Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond, Jr.’s tight-chested slacker guitar darts were in the most inexplicable ways, invigorating. If you were expecting their fifth album, Comedown Machine to be another Is This It? you’re four albums past your chance. It ain’t gonna happen. Get over it. But I don’t think any of us were expecting the middle-finger to retract this much, Casablancas shaking a falsetto at every hook, going on about tired relationship woes, westernization and – really? – fate and karma, backed by an infatuation with sterile 80s rock sheen. It’s like they’re chasing middle-age ten years too soon. So go five lyrics that show signs of that purist life still salvageable.

Chances

A sedated departure from the uzi-dive guitar shots we’ve come to know as quintessential Strokes gives way to a swarthy key pulse and the first point on a record called Comedown Machine that actually makes sense, in which Casablancas’ falsetto gives humorous wings to an otherwise bleak sentiment of a toxic relationship. If the band is done being wry and sharply disaffected, this is a perfect calming, progressive moment that still manages to pull that off without giving in to a damn thing: [LISTEN]

I take my chances alone
Get on your horse and be gone
I will not wait up for you anymore
So you can ask me if something is wrong

One Way Trigger

Conversely, if middle-age is really grabbing these dudes by the short and curlies, this white-picket fence hell of a pop A-Ha jam wields the fuck-it irony we all know and love while channeling just a savoring wee bit of punk thrust. It’s glossier, and not as dive-bar-ish, but they haven’t been on that circuit in forever and no work and no play makes The Strokes perfectly dull boys. As does the following life expectations: [LISTEN]

Find a job
Find a friend
Find a home
Find a dog
Settle down
Out of town
Find a dream
Shut it down

Partners in Crime

Paired on a b-side run of tracks that bare some sharp teeth, this is the closest tease y’all are gonna get of an Is This It? muscle, guitar work razor-cascading around a tight-hipped snare ride, Casablancas drawing on those same long-term relationship struggles, but swinging a soul-punkish inflection at a line about letting the tears flow – who cares – and emphasizing finer, misfit times ahead: [LISTEN]

Pleased to get who’s standing around
Life forgives you when you rebound
See, what friends locked up at the zoo
Why aren’t we leaving town right now?

All the Time

The second pillar of the ‘Comedown Machine’ ethos seems to preach a slower lifestyle – something we’d thought would never tumble out of Casablancas’ mouth. Though frothed with First Impressions of Earth fury, one of few moments of non-falsetto slinging, a couple listens plays revelations to the fight necessary to shake off the dark side of passivity, which makes their middle-age infatuation not such an antagonist thing: [LISTEN]

You’re livin’ a lie
You’re livin’ a lie
You’re livin’ too fast
You got to fight for the path
You never ask why
You never ask why
You’re livin’ a lie
Baby, you’re flying too high

Happy Ending

Casablancas just, not, quitting his falsetto game, removes some fog on a record mostly wrought in choppy ambiguity, indifference and anger and with the help of a trio of track-momentum before it, manages to boil down a snide wit, egging on a quarrel, fighting the good fight rather, with a circus ringleader wink at the end. Why the band ended the record with a faux-jazz crooner oddball after this is a mystery. This should have been the curtain: [LISTEN]

Say it all
Just get it all off your chest
Shake it up
500,000 times
Say no more
We don’t believe anything
Teenage angst
Come all ages