Review: Julian Casablancas - "Phrazes for the Young"


I think the reason people are so excited by this record is because Julian Casablancas is The Strokes. He's the icon of the iconic group. And it's been a long time since the collective's done anything (coming up four years). Because of this, it's easy to be disillusioned by the idea of a Casablancas solo, because there's a desire for the twenty-year-old Strokes who loved Lou Reed and Blondie (and made records to reflect it) to be resurrected. In all honesty, that sound was slowly lost over the three albums they've already put out and will probably never be again.
What we've got now is the thirty-year-old Strokes, who have sobered up on many levels. They're no longer drunk on Red Stripe and Velvet Underground vinyls, which was what made them so cool to begin with. Time will tell if they ever resurface again.

So with this eight-song mess of electronic beats and auto-tune that is Phrazes for the Young, it's essential to account for the past but not to let it weigh heavily on the present. The thing is uncohesive. Plain and simple. There's seemingly endless types of styles under depressing lyrics without any sort of thread tying them all together. Long gone are the untouched guitar and, most awful of all, the rawness of his vocals, something that defines Casablancas musically.

The most interesting track is probably Four Chords of the Apocalypse. It seamlessly loops around gospel-inspired verses, a singer-songwriter classic sounding chorus and a metal-esque guitar bridge. But at the same time, this is the oddball track of the album: the electro is toned down to the minimum and the vocals seem less warped. If only the rest of Phrazes could follow its cue.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Though I like the way the review was written, I cannot say that I agree with it.

Them being drunk and their taste in music is not what made them cool. What made them cool was how they handled the music they created with such seriousness and intensity. Despite what many flawed interviews say, the band always put the music before fame. That is what made them interesting, and that it was made them cool.

And honestly, I was a bit more excited about Little Joy (a side project including Fab) But this was a good surprise. I think the music shows how Julian has grown musically, and he has shown he is not scared to try new things.

Just thought I would share my opinion.

JIFF said...

Hm, interesting. I guess it didn't come off as I intended:

I was trying to say that the influence of those things (VU and constantly being high) were elements that made the debut record something so new and cool for the time.

Furthermore, they were drunk metaphorically on the sound of the time they were trying to emulate; totally captivated by it. Julian's even said that he wished he copied VU more.

All of this is really interesting, sort of a psych thing almost.

And Little Joy is probably one of my favorite records..I saw them play when it first came out, they're quite good live.
They just weren't as hyped as this one was.