Review: Julian Casablancas – Phrazes For The Young
06 Nov 09
Julian Casablancas – Phrazes For The Young
The child of an American model agency mogul, a Danish supermodel, and educationally raised on a diet of ridiculously expensive boarding school’s, it is a wonder that Julian Casablancas didn’t turn out the achingly cool, modern musical maestro he is today, and more like child/big boy actor Daniel Radcliffe. Fortunately for the music world, Jules didn’t let his la de da upbringing get in the way, trading his education for a penchant in leather jackets and an over active interest in alcohol, thus creating the enigmatic frontman of The Strokes, but lets not dwell on them, this is a one man show.
Album opener Out Of The Blue however doesn’t make a particularly strong case against this not being a Strokes album. Rather than plunge you into Julians sci-fi, future, retro landscape of observation from the off, it adheres to fans of his previous work. Jangly guitars, and rumbling base play over the top of ”sound electronic but are actually real” drums, creating a clean cut, focused sound that would be at home on ”First Impressions Of Earth”. He even manages to rope in some suspiciously Albert Hammond esque riffage towards the end without the frizzy fret botherer featuring on the album. It is only on the chorus, with its bed of deft new wave synths, that you get a hint of things to come. Of course his vocals are irresistible as always, his rich baritone drawl just seems to be able to compliment anything he turns his hand to (even making that Pharrels cash in converse tune, and the lonely island’s boombox listenable…)
The album hits its stride on 11th Dimension, the first single off the album, and for obvious reasons. From the instant you hear the bouncing bassline, mingle with the agressive organ (featuring a riff cheekily pinched from The Thin White Duke’s Rebel Rebel…) it becomes apparent that Casablancas has tapped into something that many (especially in recent years) have tried yet failed. Bringing retro into the present. The key to this is something that used to be essential to making a good record, the ability to write a tune. ”Well yeah no shit…” calls your brain, but it has become apparent in recent years, that many pop stars in this genre have fallen victim to being more concious of sounding right, rather than writing right. Casablancas has indeed used many contemporary, of this moment sounds, but the man knows how to write a tune. Mixing elements of Hall and Oates, Blondie, Eye of the tiger and Mozart, and to still come out with a song that is nigglingly more-ish is something to behold.
Ludlow Street however is rather hit and miss. A country song regarding the invading yuppies, and their subsequent takeover of Lower Eastside Thoroughfare. How fitting then that the song opens with the ghostly whine of Indian Navajo drums and panpipes, creating a sorrowfully sombre atmosphere, before fading into what ends up sounding like a meeting of Dolly Parton and Dr Dre. Nothing musically wrong, until that is the jarring, electronic banjo solo, making the song sound more like something Flight Of The Conchords would think up. As ever the lyrics are evocative, embedded within your mind upon the first listen, ”While I surrendered my ego you fed yours/All my fantasies died when you said yours/ I have dangled my pride to forget yours/Will my mind be at ease when I get yours?/We’ll find out, soon enough.” sings Casablancas, his ever present resentment making strong use of his doeful tone.
It is on Glass that the album is truly defined. Bringing the many elements found throughout, into one track. Hushed harmonious whistling opens, giving a similar feel to that of Ludlow street. Then once again, the warm welcoming bassy synths, build alongside the dancey hi hat drums, until it bursts. A euphoric eruption of crashing cymbals and elated vocals, ”Bulletproof glass/Bulletproof glass/Bulletproof You’re in a little glass/But who knows?/But who knows?”, is destined to become a live sing along anthem. The track also best illustrates the classically inclined side of the album, with a solo jammed out from the hybrid of Mozart, Daft Punk and Slash, making you listen in equal parts adoration and awe, before fading into a wash of sleigh bells and feedback.
The other guys at his day job, may have given it their best in their own solo endeavours, but it was undoubtedly going to be Julian who produced the most accomplished work of them all, making an album of modern importance, unclouded by the usual haze of hype and media hysteria.