Who’d of thought it aye? Julian Casablancas, the lead man of The Strokes, owner of Cult Records, had it in him to experiment this hard? Julian Casablancas has always said that his aim with The Strokes has always been to make unpopular genres of music popular again. It worked with their first few albums helping the waves of garage rock bands break into the mainstream. Their last couple of albums were acknowledged as somewhat disappointments as they went for a more new-wave type sound. They fell flat mainly because it felt like their hearts weren’t in it. So if like me you weren’t expecting much from a Julian Casablancas solo record (or with his new band ‘The Voidz’- whatever) then this record will come as a nice surprise for you, in that it sounds like where he needs to be on this record. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is another matter entirely.
The lead single ‘Human Sadness’ was dropped earlier this month and instantly the word ‘ambitious’ was being thrown around all over the place, and that was before people had even heard it. People were shocked that the track was nearly 11 minutes long. The song itself is a song so dreamy, chaotic, schizophrenic and nothing like anything he’d done before that it was hard to believe it was him. The second track to be released was ‘Where No Eagles Fly’ and was a song that solidified that this album was set to be completely different than what you would expect. It was minor hints of The Strokes in that it had moments of garage rock in it, but it was filthiest kind of garage rock and had Casablancas screaming like he’s never screamed before. These two songs are honestly the best on the album and some up Tyranny very well. A collection of songs all extremely different from each other, which was apparently exactly what he was going for.
Some moments you have elements of thrash metal on this record such as on the song ‘M.utually A.ssured D.estruction’ and other tracks where Casablancas is howling. We have Indian influences; we have arcade game influences; there are so many ideas in this LP that it’s to see how it’s the same man who had involvement in the uninspired ‘Comedown Machine’ last year. The problem is with all of these influences they’re not always executed in the greatest ways. Though the effects on Julian’s vocals are interesting at times, other times it’s just grating because of the fact you can’t make out a single word he’s saying. Sometimes the many layers of instrumentation just don’t seem to blend seamlessly at all, whereas on the other tracks the bizarreness of it all clicks. The tracks ‘Nintendo Blood’ and ‘Take Me In Your Army’ are two examples of where it works, it fuses Casablancas’ incredible knack for a melody into these new influences without feeling overstuffed.
Another problem on this record is the length of some of the songs, and NOT on ‘Human Sadness’. You have to praise Julian for making so many songs over six minutes long, a marker The Strokes have never managed to reach. But a lot of the songs just seem to fuzz and screech endlessly, where they start off interesting they soon turn into white noise making me lose attention fast.
Although you really have to praise Julian’s experimentation, it’s so unfortunate it’s such a mixed bag of an album. I guess, that’s what the meaning of ‘experimentation’ is. It’s rarely going to come out perfectly. I expect many will genuinely love this LP if you’re a massive fan of the man already. Others will have to dig through like me to find the handful of songs they enjoy. Who knows, this album might age well and one day it might become some sort of cult classic and then you can all laugh in my face at how wrong I was.