Words About Music
Julian Casablancas + The Voidz “Tyranny”
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Julian Casablancas was supposed to just be one of those musicians who just faded away after a while. I mean, how long has it been since The Strokes put out anything consistently great? Did anyone even pay attention the first time he dropped a solo release? “Tyranny” wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. But, Julian won’t go down without a fight. Him and this new poorly-named side-project of his have put out some of the most progressive, coherent, fascinating music that Julian Casablancas has ever been associated with. While he’s known mostly for concise pop-garage rock and the occasional failed synth-pop song or album, it turns out that he does have an ear for experimental music. “Tyranny” includes several multi-faceted tracks that delve into post-punk, industrial, noise, and experimental psych pop territories. This sounds like the album Animal Collective should have put out after “Merriweather Post Pavilion,” or even Sufjan Stevens’ logical followup to “The Age of Adz.” I had all but given up on Julian’s output at this point, but I’m not ashamed to admit that this is one of the best projects he’s been involved with in years.
The first sign that something was going on here was the track lengths. Sitting right in the middle of the album’s front half is the 11-minute masterpiece that is “Human Sadness,” a song that justifies its length with a keen focus on melody and texture. There’s also a 7-minute song and three 6-minute songs. As indulgent as “Tyranny” appears to be (and is), it’s also incredibly ambitious and stands in direct contrast to anything Casablancas has been previously involved in. Though I must say the second half does drag a little bit regarding his vocal delivery (it’s hard to top the high-energy screams of “Where No Eagles Fly,” I must admit) which gives the album a tapering feel rather than a wholly coherent one.
With that said, I was nearly speechless the first time I listened to this album. It’s not perfect by any means, but it certainly leans toward “well that was pretty freakin’ good” on the spectrum. It might have done better for me if one or two of the tracks were cut, but the types of sounds heard on here justify its length for the most part. While it did initially stand out to me because it was such a noisy record that had Julian Casablancas’ name on it, that gimmick wears off and the album can be appreciated for its content. If you like noisier, lo-fi rock then you should definitely give “Tyranny” a listen, because Julian covers a lot of bases on here. Sometimes the band sounds like 90s-era Ministry, other times it sounds like a sloppy shoegaze band. It’s really quite fascinating.
While this may not end up being one of my favorites of the year, it still stands as an outstanding achievement in Casablancas’ career. What initially felt like an over-indulgent project with nothing more than shock value backing the experimentation now feels like a band with quite a bit of potential. I’d love to see Julian explore this style of music more in the future, and I hope we hear another Voidz record long before we hear what The Strokes cook up in order to save themselves from whatever they were trying to accomplish on “Comedown Machine.”
I do like “Angles,” though.
SCORE – 8.2
FAVORITE TRACKS – Take Me In Your Army, Crunch Punch, Mutually Assured Destruction, Human Sadness, Where No Eagles Fly, Father Electricity, Johan Von Bronx, Business Dog, Nintendo Blood