Julian Casablancas is back. After last year’s epic but underrated Comedown Machine with the Strokes, the frontman is still pushing pop boundaries if it hurts sales or not. This album, with a new fully fledged band is a creative breakthrough, and probably his most stimulating and interesting release to date. Electronic, eclectic and exciting, this album rarely sits still. Casablancas seems like he’s constantly testing what he can do, vocally, lyrically and texturally. It sounds like a modern day Velvet Underground record, which is a sentiment Julian would surely find complimentary. Having always been inspired by the VU’s Lou Reed, it seems he’s fulfilled the next step of his artistic destiny with this turn for the weird.
Like the Velvet Underground, Casablancas’ main band The Strokes created an iconic debut before polarising fans through experimentation to both rewarding acclaim and confusion. But this new venture with The Voidz goes deeper. With a complex mix of sampling, brilliant guitar and no holds barred kicks out at the establishment’s Tyranny, it is in some ways the most exciting thing from NYC’s ultimate indie hero.
There’s some fantastic tracks on here. “Crunch Punch” uses old radio samples and sonic effects to transport you to some kind of retro-futuristic New York, where sounds you’d expect from a malfunctioning arcade machine fill your ears and thoughts. Debut single “Human Sadness” is an emotive eleven minute collage of distortion, solos and interference, followed by a hectic bombardment of audio assaults through synths, screams and all in “Where No Eagles Fly“.
“Dare I Care” shakes up an already unpredictable album by utilizing a crazy Bhangra like influence. He spits out a blend of Arabian and English over what would have been one of the most stimulating instrumentals were it not for tracks like “M.utually A.ssured D.estruction“. “Nintendo Blood” sounds like it came straight out of a much more menacing Mario universe as the album constantly shifts shape and evolves. “They like to change the rules as they go” he stabs at tyrannous bankers and politicians, but at times it seems like the tracks The Voidz play are made up as they go along, except it’s more like a beautiful dream than a system of oppression.
Spend some time with it with an open mind and you’ll hear the music of yesterday’s future, with a sprinkle of Strokes style magic. It’s the sort of album best experienced as a single piece, there aren’t many tracks here that could fit in a playlist without dragging on or sticking out. It’s less a collection of great songs, more a landscape of concepts and audio ideas.
While it might be less obviously a protest record than they previously let on, the running theme sticks its head above the firing line enough to be seen as an album calling for a shakeup. At a price of $3.87 there’s clear proof that music and money can be made at such a low price if you cut out the greed of the record industry. As head of Cult Records, Casablancas is able to show the industry how things should be done; great music at low price. Julian Casablancas and The Voidz tour America this fall with the fantastic support of Mr. Twin Sister, Sebastien Tellier, Mac DeMarco and Shabazz Palaces. Tyranny is out September 23rd.