Between Hopeless & Despondent On The Sadness-Continuum

A Track-By-Track "Review" of Comedown Machine by The Strokes 


1) I’m sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor eating Easter candy and drinking a bottle of Spearhead Hawaiian or should I say Spearhead Hawaiian Style Pale Ale. Oh God, I shouldn’t. I should never say that. 
        We’ve got Spearhead Hawaiian on tap at my restaurant. “I feel very passionately about it,” I tell customers, “There’s pineapple in the beer.” It’s the first beer I’ve ever felt passionate about, probably because of the pineapple. But the tap is fucked up. It’s a fast and aggressive tap, and pouring Spearhead Hawaiian is, to quote myself while pouring a pint of it yesterday, “the worst thing I ever have to do in my life.” The pints are top-heavy and it spills all over my hands. My hands are sticky and smell like pineapple-beer.

2) I’m sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor eating Easter candy and drinking a bottle of beer.
        I wasn’t even supposed to be working tonight. I was covering the busser’s shift, because the busser is on vacation. He’s in London and Paris, which are not places where the or any busser should be. Either you bus tables, or you vacation on the continent. You can’t do both. It’s illogical. Stop bussing tables.
         My shift got cut. I ducked into the drugstore within seconds of receiving my manager’s text; that’s where I bought all the Easter candy. There were actual things I needed to buy- conditioner, toilet paper, soap- but I was like, “Fuck it, I’ll buy them tomorrow,” and walked straight to the Easter candy. I bought five different kinds: a baggie of mini-eggs, a Caramilk egg, a three-pack of Cadbury crème eggs, a marshmallow rabbit, and a peppermint lamb.
         I knew when I got home I’d wash my lipstick off. I knew which pyjamas I’d put on. I laid out all my Easter candy on the floor in front of me and tried a bite of every kind.

3) I’m sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor listening to Tap Out by the Strokes and biting the head off a peppermint lamb. I’m ignoring my beer for a second; I’m too into the lamb. I’m the happiest I’ve been all month, but this song is making me sad.
         I hear the Strokes as being sadder than everybody else does. I know this is true for sure; it’s an ongoing thing. They’ll be playing in some social situation and I’ll say, or wistfully remark rather, “This song makes me so sad!” and then everybody else’ll make a big old everybody else-style fuss about disagreeing with me. Classic everybody.
         Sad is too big of a word for the particular little sad I hear in songs like Tap Out. This sad occupies the space that falls between hopeless and despondent on the sadness-continuum. It sounds like getting lost in one of the boxy old beige highrises that housed the optometrists, podiatrists and allergists of my childhood, trodding the carpeted hallways while crying out for my mom, quietly, too worried to panic.


I like this song because it’s the only one that sounds like the old Strokes, the Is This It Strokes, the Strokes I was once lucky enough to be sixteen for. They were the perfect band for a sullen sixteen year old from suburbia to fall in love all over: they were dirty, they were porcelain, they were from New York. They seemed tiny and collectible, like the Beatles must have. You could tell they all had radically different personalities; they were the kind of band where you need to know the drummer’s name. It’s all their fault I started smoking cigarettes.
        I had the biggest crush on Nikolai, will always have the biggest crush on Nikolai, was going to marry Nikolai, and would still marry Nikolai, if God came down to Earth and gave me twenty seconds to choose one man on the entire planet to spend the rest of my life with. I never saw him once the entire time I lived in New York City but two Octobers ago I was in a cab to the East Village from Port Authority, very early in the morning, and I saw him skulking across West Tenth Street at Sixth Ave, carrying a wooden child’s bike over one shoulder. He was wearing desert boots and corduroy pants.
        All The Time sounds a lot like Room on Fire, which is my favorite Strokes album. The melody veers off and takes you in a bunch of unexpected directions, like getting lost in that office building again, only this time you’re drunk and grown and falling all over your best friends, laughing, eating sour keys out of your tote bag.


One Way Trigger is fucking perfect. I can’t stop listening to it, and I don’t want to stop listening to it. I want to ram it down my throat like it’s the crème of a thousand crème eggs. I want to keep eating all the crème eggs until the acid of the fake crème sugar burns the skin of my throat off.
         I guess this song will remind me of today and yesterday forever. I’m writing this only one day after the album came out, on the Wednesday. I want to trap these two days and eleven songs forever in time.
        On March 27th I didn’t wash my hair. I put red lipstick on because red lipstick distracts people from things like dirty hair. You can look like the worst shit of your entire life but if you throw on some red lipstick people will freak out over how amazing you look.
        I pulled my hair back. It was grey outside. I lay on my couch and watched episodes of Modern Family on the Internet because desperate times call for desperate measures. I left for work early so I could go to Starbucks first. Now that the weather’s a little nicer I’ve been walking pretty far out of my way to get a Venti Bold from either of my two inconveniently-located Backup Buxxes; I worked at the Starbucks closest to my house for three months last spring and I’m never going back there. A few months ago I got pretty revved up in the middle of the day and it seemed for a few minutes like I was going to walk back inside there but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I’m cool with that now.
         One Way Trigger is the sound of the bare minimum of warmth required for me to walk pretty far out of my way to get a Venti Bold before work. It’s the sound of a red lipstick-stained Starbucks cup.


I hate when rich white people go to Japan and get inspired by it. I don’t like this song a whole lot, but to give credit where credit is due, “What kind of asshole drives a Lotus?” is a pretty great song lyric.


(This is an exceptionally beautiful song with an exceptionally garbagey title. Comedown Machine worked out just fine as the title of the album, why’d they have to tack an 80s onto the name of this song? They should have just named the whole thing Slow Animals, in my opinion. But I guess I should save the Slow Animals talk for Slow Animals.)

Forty-five minutes before my shift begins I’m standing in the eight items or less line at the Metro, trying to remember the last time I bought more than eight items at the Metro, listening to this song and reading my Free Will Astrology on my phone. I’m imagining myself crying into a dog’s neck. The only time I’ve cried this year was when Chandler proposed to Monica on Friends, and those were tears of joy. Every time I see a big dog I want to hug it so hard I want to cry but I can only cry if I’m hugging the dog. I can’t imagine myself ever being settled enough to have a dog, so maybe I’ll never cry again. Unless I borrow somebody else’s dog. 
         My horoscope tells me to be mischievous this week which is a cool sign because I Tweeted about being “so devoted to mischief” the other day. And it’s true it’s all I really care about. The older you get, the more everyone around you starts “trying to drink less,” but as far as I’m concerned the only reason to drink less is to get drunker when you do drink.
        I’m buying coffee grinds and peanut butter; the boy in front of me’s buying a box of Nature’s Path Crunchy Vanilla Sunrise and a bag of generic-brand barbeque potato chips. It appears I’ve fallen in love with him. He’s black with blond eyes, and while I’m being rung through he waits for the cashier to open the till so he can ask for two tens for a twenty. “I have two tens,” I tell him, and give him two tens. He gives me his twenty.
        I have one ear bud in my ear. I stare at the cover of an Archie comic until my eyes go blurry.
        At work I serve a man named Pete with a tic in his eye. He’s from Liverpool. He looks at my Lennon and McCartney tattoos and says “Hate the Beatles, huh?”
        I curl up my lip and shrug, “I don’t really care either way.”
        He’s missing half of his right middle finger. I sell him two pints of Spearhead Hawaiian, and he tips me twenty percent. I eat a taco in the kitchen, let the juice drip down my fist and tell myself You can feel alone if you feel like feeling alone, but you’re not.


I’m sitting on the subway on the way to work and this song comes on. There’s a slight Hispanic man wearing baggy jeans held up by a grommeted leather belt. At first I think he’s a dancer dancing, but then I realize he’s got Tourette’s and can’t stop twitching; I’m a bit of a ticcy person myself and can’t watch. It’s five hours before I’ll meet the ticcy Liverpudlian, who’ll be more my style of ticcer. A blinker. (I’ve got to stop writing about twitching because it’s making me twitch, and everybody else who twitches twitch too.)
        “Ugh, it’s this one,” I think, “the Nirvana-y one,” but I don’t turn it off. I try to make myself sit through the whole thing while simultaneously trying not to watch the twitching man twitch, but as it turns out I can’t do either.


I want to love Slow Animals, because Slow Animals is such a cool song title. It’s my second-favorite “animals” song title of all time, after Animals At The Zoo by the Kinks, which is my second-favorite “zoo” song title of all time after Zoo Gang by Paul McCartney.
        Slow Animals started out with an automatic 10/10 from me, which is rare for me. Usually I start things out at a solid zero, and then they have to work their way up. I start off assuming every person is a mean stupid loser, and then I let the chill and interesting things they do add up and prove to me why they’re worth being loved. It’s the opposite of the benefit of the doubt.
        Slow Animals peaked early. It’s the worst song on the album. As I mentioned earlier, I wish the album was called Slow Animals and 80’s Comedown Machine was called Slow Animals and actual Slow Animals was left to erode away on the cutting room floor. Overall, it gets a six out of ten, but four of those points belong to the title.


On the way home from work I turned off Partners In Crime in the middle of Partners In Crime because I started thinking if there’s no God than what the fuck is math, which made me think about the Universe, which of course made me think about dying. I thought “At least when I die I’ll quit freaking out about dying.” I wrote “So there’s my review of Partners In Crime: it’s not enough about dying” in my notebook, and turned on Emitt Rhodes.
        There I am on the subway, all sleepy and flat-haired (my hair was very flat yesterday), and Emitt Rhodes is all over death and dying! He’s all “Live until you die,” and “Someone died,” and “Ever feel yourself dying? Dying a slow death? Heavy-laden with burdens that are stealing your youth?” and I say “Yeah,” run up five flights of stairs and walk face-first into a telephone pole, listen to One Way Trigger until the cold night dries out my knuckles and I’m home.


My initial reaction to Chances was, “Wow, he was definitely inspired by the soundtrack to the movie Drive,” which is a little bit of a funny joke but ultimately diminishing to the severe excellence of this beautiful song. I would throw away almost the entire album if it meant I could hang on to Chances. It’s the point of it.
         It makes me want to fall in love with every man I’ve ever met, no, seen, just so I could listen to this song and think about him and obsess over every detail of every text message, work it like a maniac and show up to work every day and tell my co-workers that my game is on point, eat dinner at the restaurant at my choice and make my “I’ve been eating like a turn of the century oil baron all week” joke, which- natch- is always true of me, get too drunk and laugh too loud, the perfect amount of loud, invite him over to my house and put this song on and feel conflicting emotions about all the times I listened to this song on the subway, the way I imagined it would be vs. the way it actually is.
        This song sounds like the way it actually is. It has nothing to do with a neat metaphor about being lost in an imaginary office building; it’s about the fact that office buildings exist. It’s about how every man you’ve ever loved will probably end up working in an office building. It’s about feeling defeated, but being too lazy to give in.


The other day a table of three middle-aged ladies I was serving asked me how I was doing and as I said, “I’m great! Thank you so much for asking!” the words “Not as good as I’d be if I were having sex in the back of a car in the middle of a crazy thunderstorm in June!” popped into my head, because I’m fucking hilarious and every single thing I think is interesting. Anyway, I sold one of them three and a half pints of Spearhead Hawaiian. They tipped like shit. I got home that night and decided that I’m going to stop caring about whether or not I ever find the right dude and start caring about finding a dude who has access to a car this coming June.
        It’s a stretch to say that any of this has anything to do with Happy Ending by the Strokes, but I decided before I’d even heard the album that I’d pick whichever song from Comedown Machine I’d most like to have sex in the back of a car in the middle of a crazy thunderstorm in June to and use it as an opportunity to write about how awesome having sex in the back of a car in the middle of a crazy thunderstorm in June would be. Happy Ending is definitely that song.


I love Julian Casablancas. I love anyone who drinks too much and gets fat. People who do too many drugs and get skinny are not my people.
        I worry about Julian Casablancas. He seems like a richer male version of myself, which sounds like a recipe for disaster if I ever knew one. I’m scared that he’s going to die and I’m scared that he’s going to be a negligent father but I definitely stand behind his naming his son Cal. Cal Casablancas. I keep distracting myself from finishing this paragraph by looking at these paparazzi photos of him wearing a black leather blazer over a drug rug at a movie premiere. His bangs are greasy and thin. I wonder if he still smokes cigarettes.
        I just ate my last Cadbury crème egg. I heard this song for the first time yesterday. It was the closest I’d come to crying since Chandler asked Monica to marry him. It didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard before. It’s my favorite song on the album.
        I was at the St. George subway station. It made me remember the exact day I quit smoking, six months and twenty-three days earlier. I stamped out my farewell cigarette, a Marlboro Red 100, and when I saw the words ST. GEORGE against the mint tiled walls I thought of George Harrison. That’s why I got a George Harrison tattoo.
        Yesterday I saw that ST. GEORGE, rolled my eyes because I’ll always call it karma, wondered if Julian Casablancas still smokes cigarettes, and thought of every important thing that’s happened to me over the course of the past six months and twenty-three days. Julian Casablancas sang, “Can I stand in your light just for awhile?”
         I knew exactly why I hadn’t cried all year. I smiled and sighed. I decided, in that moment, that Julian Casablancas and I are both going to be okay.


  1. I love this post. I hate The Strokes. I feel conflicted. I want pineapple beer.

    1. i think that's a perfectly normal reaction!

  2. i think you've inspired me to give this album another chance! would like to hear your thoughts on tom petty's "zombie zoo" re: zoo song titles. actually, would like to hear any thoughts at all of yours or liz's on tom petty.

    1. i'm kinda way into 'zombie zoo.' it's funny, the other day i listened to 'full moon fever' for the first time in, like...ten years? at least? it's so good.

      anyway my general thoughts on tom petty are i love him and i should totally write about him on Strawberry Fields Whatever. thank you!!

  3. The other day I was thinking about how, essentially, the Strokes always sound the same. Even though nothing sounds like Is This It or Room On Fire. And the Strokes doing the same sound is something that makes me happy because it's like little windows of memories being opened to past feelings that I once had. Not that music causing this sort of thing is anything new...it's just a different "thing" when it comes to them. I'm glad you wrote this. No one ever talks about the Strokes anymore.