Julian Casablancas transforms sound with the Voidz

Cult Records/Courtesy

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“This is not for everybody, this is for nobody,” warbles Julian Casablancas on “Take Me in Your Army,” the opening track of Tyranny, which is the debut album from Strokes’ frontman Casablancas’ side project, Julian Casablancas + The Voidz. This honest warning — or rather, declaration — seems to hold true for the entirety of the album. Riddled with booming bass lines, heavy drums, thick synthesizers and Casablancas’ croons about the evil corporate man and the illusions of democracy, the album is heavy-handed both lyrically and musically. It’s Casablancas’ most adventurous project yet, producing something utterly unexpected.

Throughout the album, disharmonious guitar solos come hurtling out of nowhere at warp speed as Casablancas furiously moans on about something just short of an existential crisis. Each song rips apart the inner workings of the singer’s mind. The 12-track album takes you on a journey that seems practically out of body. This is not the same Casablancas who wrote Is This It or even Phrazes for the Young. This, it seems, is on a completely different astral plane.

Consisting of impressionistic noise and sprawling riffs, the album breaks out of the carefully constructed confines of Casablancas’ previous records. This is no easy-listening Strokes LP. Obviously, this isn’t for the casual music fan or even the average Strokes fan; it’s what one would consider “extremely experimental.” This is Casablancas cementing his title as resident musical genius and then writing it again in Sharpie all over the sidewalk.

Each song is relatively long, with the 11-minute track “Human Sadness” taking the cake. The record has a really grimy feel to it, despite the infused synthesizers. It almost feels like a haphazardly thrown together mix tape that was left in the gutter in a New York City alley.

Titles such as “M.utually A.ssured D.estruction” and “Business Dog,” alongside themes waterlogged with corporate hatred, emphasize the protest nature of the album. The tracks themselves are diverse, ranging slow, almost chanson-esque vocals of “Off to War…” to the bone-rattling bass of “Where No Eagles Fly.”

It’s a chaotic, cosmic mess, yet Casablancas manages to find his peace. He is very self-aware and carefully controls his vocals despite the uncontrolled nature of the songs.

Together, Julian Casablancas + The Voidz is a team of misfits, concerned much more with playing volume than actual instrumental perfection. The production can only be described as dirty and cluttered, something that hasn’t been quite polished yet. Where Phrazes was the signifier for the budding solo career of an already established alternative singer, Tyranny is the prodigal son who hasn’t quite returned yet, still busy cavorting in the streets.

The record is different. It’s bold. It’s brash. And in the end, Julian Casablancas could honestly care less if you liked it or not.

Contact Kayla Oldenburg at [email protected].