Articles tagged with The Strokes

Julian Casablancas indulges his whims

Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young
Initially, I had Julian Casablancas pinned as one of those frontmen who probably couldn’t play an instrument and had little involvement in the songwriting process; I imagined the Strokes‘ singer showing up to the studio on the day of the recording session, listening to his bandmates’ completed songs and throwing some bratty vocals on top. He sounded so lazy and disaffected that it was hard to imagine him investing much in the composition. Closer inspection of the liner notes, however, proved me wrong: Casablancas is the sole writer of nearly every song the Strokes have ever released, including all of their hits.

So with that in mind, it’s really not that much of a leap for Casablancas to go solo for his latest album. In fact, it’s a little surprising that it’s taken him this long, especially considering that three of his fellow Strokes have already unveiled side projects.

Phrazes for the Young is being billed as Casablancas’s foray into synth pop, but that description is only accurate insofar as the majority of the instruments on the album are electronic. Stylistically, Phrazes for the Young sounds much older than its ’80s-infused keyboards would suggest: “Ludlow St.” is an old-timey country waltz, while “4 Chords of the Apocalypse” is a bluesy lounge ballad that gives the singer an opportunity to croon about taking his girl dancing and giving her diamonds. The guitar-heavy opener “Out of the Blue” is the most familiar territory for Casablancas, but it sounds closer rootsy bar blues than the Strokes’ usual garage rock mayhem.

Unfortunately, Phrazes of the Young is unfocused and overlong, something that’s especially problematic considering that it’s only eight songs long. Every song has its hooks, but they don’t come fast or often enough; most of the tracks clock in at around five minutes, but they probably shouldn’t be longer than three. The obvious exception to this criticism is the single “11th Dimension,” which piles on mindlessly catchy keyboard riffs and Street Fighter-style breakdowns without wasting a second. “Left & Right in the Dark” is similarly catchy, although the gap between choruses drags on a little.

With some editing, the album could have been the triumphant reinvention Casablancas was doubtless looking for. As it is, “11th Dimension” deserves a place on any “Best of 2009″ playlist, but the rest isn’t likely to hold many people’s attention for long.

Phrazes of the Young is out now via Cult/RCA.
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