Julian Casablancas has never struck me as the kind of frontman who pays attention to the critics. That said, he must have been listening when almost everyone agreed that Phrazes For The Young was basically a Strokes record without the band. Five years later Casablancas has taken that message to heart and delivered his new record, Tyranny. There are brief moments where you can hear some production cues or a guitar riff that feels familiar, but for the most part this record is about as far from The Strokes as you can get.
This is certainly not the album I expected to be the follow-up to what I actually think is a pretty good solo debut. Tyranny is dark and foreboding. Even at its most optimistic it feels like a record made for a dystopian future where kill-or-be-killed biker gangs rule the streets. At times it feels like it gets some inspiration from the recent “fake horror movie score” craze (which I enjoy), while other times it’s like Julian is channeling the same kind of imagination that has made artists like Prince and Beck so popular. The band he’s put together to back him up, The Voidz, is filled with names I’ve never heard of, but at every turn they do something that impresses me so much that I want to find everything else they’ve ever made (Jeramy Gritter on guitar, touring partner of Kesha? Whatever-sounds great here).
It’s a weird record. One that probably would fit better in the discography of Ariel Pink than the guy that’s fronted one of the most iconic acts of the last 15 years. It goes from experimental punk and thrash to pretty pop melody at the drop of a hat, and you never know what’s coming next. It makes sense that the two singles released before the album’s release were the 11-minute, 8-bit sonic joyride “Human Sadness” and “Where No Eagles Fly,” a song so utterly different from the first single it’s hard to believe they’re from the same album. I love the production on “Human Sadness” enough that it gets my vote over “Eagles,” but the energy of the latter is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Tyranny somehow finds ways to stay weird throughout all 12 tracks without ever letting up. Even “Johan Von Bronx,” the most Strokes-esque song on the record, it feels fresh and exciting. That gives me some hope for the next album The Strokes put out because maybe Julian is just as bored with their sound as I am.
You can pick up Tyranny here when it comes out tomorrow. The band will be touring the United States throughout October and November.