Pretty much since New Years, I have been eagerly awaiting the second solo album by Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas. I guess this is TECHNICALLY not a solo album as it’s a new band but fuck it, my blog my rules.
Back in the Spring, JC+TVZ went on a festival type tour and the feelings were pretty mixed. Casablancas seemed more in his element than he did in the past decade with the Strokes but musically; something was off. The mixes didn’t sound too hot, the vocals were hit or miss and since we had no idea what songs he was singing; it just wasn’t really good.
I started dreading the release to a degree. I was going to obviously buy it, but enjoy it? Considering the standard set by the criminally underrated Phrazes for the Young what would I expect from Tyranny?
Well today, I finally got my chance to hear Tyranny (streaming FOR FREE on RollingStone) and I am much more optimistic. Throughout the pre-release promotion of the album; there seemed to be a common theme. This was a protest record by Casablancas and it would not be the same as the Strokes or Phrazes. It would be “rad” but “alienate” certain fans and critics.
After hearing the album I can say that it’s definitely out there but not as crazy as the initial hype would have suggested. Make no mistake, this album is at times HEAVY and there’s only small glimpses of the same man who wrote “The Modern Age” and “Someday”. If you are expecting a 6th Strokes album off of this, then well; save your $3.87.
The album kickstarts with “Take Me In Your Army” which to me sounds like a haunting spinoff of “Instant Crush”, the song that Casablancas collaborated with Daft Punk. It’s a lowkey opener in the vein of “Is This It” but that’s the only comparison I could think of. “Crunch Punch” follows and you hear those trademarked Casablancas drones that we have all become accustomed to hearing with another “haunting” repetitive riff backing.
The album kicks into overdrive with “M.utual A.ssured D.estruction” before the 10-minute “Human Sadness” (the first track released) slows things down, then picks it up, then slows it down; then really makes you stop and think. I’m of the opinion that “Human Sadness” is kind of a snoozer but it’s clearly the deepest track Casablancas has ever wrote.
First single “Where No Eagles Fly” sees the Voidz starting to sound like a more cohesive unit and then it’s followed by “Father Electricity” (a seven-minute experiment that would’ve been better left at four) and album highlight “Johan Von Bronx”. “Johan von Bronx” was formerly “Ego” and it has the strongest, most catchy chorus that you’ll find. In fact, when it comes to a “catchy” chorus; this might be one of Casablancas’s best in recent memory.
“Business Dog” is a tight, disjointed jam that is the older brother of “50/50” and “Xerox” is a weird, off-kilter ballad that instrumentally sounds like something straight out of Halloween. “Dare I Care” sees the Voidz sound like an evil version of Vampire Weekend with heavy drums and island influences with a “One-Way Trigger” twist. “Nintendo Blood” is the true 80s sounding song on this album before “Off to War” puzzles you as the album draws to a close.
All in all, “Tyranny” seems like the project Julian Casablancas and the Voidz wanted. It sounds intentionally incomplete and I guess the word “disjointed” and “haunting” are the best words describe it. There’s influences of a variety of bands and I can’t help but see the homage to the Misfits with “Where No Eagles Fly” and “Dare I Care” as one of the most recognizable Misfits songs is “Where Eagles Dare”. This is a punk rock sounding album that is a lot heavier than any Strokes-related material beforehand.
It’s not perfect and it’s not for everyone. There’s some misses on this album and it struggles when Casablancas tries to be a bit too ambitious on certain tracks. When he keeps it “relatively” concise and simple, the album shines.
Overall, I’m giving it a B.
Overall Grade: B (or 8/10)
Songs To Download: “Where No Eagles Fly”, “Johan von Bronx”, “Dare I Care”, “Nintendo Blood”
Songs To Skip: “Xerox”, “Off To War”