Julian Casablancas (from The Strokes): Phrazes for the Young

4 Nov

About a month ago, I felt as though we were being teased by a single off the solo debut of Julian Casablancas. Listening to “11th Dimension” left me wondering if the finished product would be nearly as good. As it turns out, it’s a gem of an album and one that will surely be making the top ten in several “best of 2009” lists. I know it will be in mine.

YDP Reviews Talks About:

Julian Casablancas : Phrazes for the Young

Phrazes for the Young

I'm so 70s it hurts

Do you remember where you were when you first heard the Strokes debut record, Is This It. It was the fall of 2001 and I know exactly where I was; in a friend’s car jamming out to DC 101. God, that was a fantastic rock album. How about the follow-up album Room on Fire (2003)? It wasn’t as much fun as their debut, but it was a more complex album that left us with fantastic tracks like “Reptilia,” and “12:51.” Three years passed and First Impressions of Earth (2006), an under appreciated gem, limped by almost unnoticed. Now, facing the end of the first decade of the 2000s, we’ve only been gifted three records from one of the most promising rock bands of the last ten years. But what if you’re hungry for more? Well it’s too bad, wait a little longer because I’m sorry but this is not a new Strokes record. REPEAT. This is not a new Strokes record. No, what you get is an awesome solo debut from Julian Casablancas titled Phrazes for the Young. REDUNDANT WARNING: Do not think this is a Strokes album…otherwise you might be disappointed.

So what is Phrazes for the Young? In a nutshell it’s vintage Casablancas over a synth infused pop rock sound that straddles the soulful folk ballads of the late 60’s/70’s and the dance music of the 80s. Yes, by definition that would not be vintage Casablancas, but trust me, I have no other way to explain it, and it works. It works very, very well. You see there are only 8 tracks on this 40 minute record and while it’s no masterpiece it’s a hell of a good album. I can’t stress enough, do not compare this record to any of The Strokes’ releases. Jam packed with an amazing array of wonderful compositions, these songs are not stripped down, but instead they’re layered rather meticulously with few exceptions; perhaps a nod to the contemporary classic (80s) music it’s emulating. This album is Julian Casablancas experimenting with sounds and styles, stretching beyond the rock ballad singer archetype he’s so far been bound to.

Lyrically, the record has the depth of a wading pool. With tracks like “Out of the Blue” Casablancas drags us through light poetry with lines like “Yes, I know I’m going to hell in a purple basket/At least I’ll be in another world/But you’ll be pissing on my casket.” But, keep in mind, we don’t listen to him for his mind bending lyrics, but it’s his delivery style that has us hooked (I mean go back and read the lyrics for every song on Is this it, I dare you). But that’s the point, his delivery style is an effortless motion where the track is more like a playground that he dances around and sometimes along the way he may or may not address some sort of social absurdity.

On “Glass,” Casablancas delivers a minimalist lyrical effort, over what I can only describe as Animal Collective-y sound. I’d say the focus is on the sound of the lyrics and less in the content. And really, that bleeds this discussion into the general sound of this record.

As straightforward as I can say it, this is way more English 80s Electronic movement than late 50s garage rock sound. Obvi. But there are still a few curveballs. “4 Chords of the Apocalypse” completely changes the tone and sounds like a cover of a Joe Cocker track. Immediately following it is “Ludlow Street,” an alt-country composition. The textures of each track are poppy enough to grab hold, yet maintain enough substance to discover something new on each return. I love it.

I say this is a fantastic and adventurous debut release from a very talented rocker. I dont want to see him give up The Strokes, but I wouldn’t mind hearing more solo releases from Casablancas in the future. Really, this album isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a nice coda to a fantastic decade of sound. It’s almost poetic really. So Julian Casablancas, you’re already the epitome of Gen Y cool, but the world will continue to welcome you and your music with arms wide open.

3.5/5 high fives

Take a listen to a few great tracks courtesy of TheHypeMachine:

Left & Right in the Dark

Out of the Blue


One Response to “Julian Casablancas (from The Strokes): Phrazes for the Young”

  1. ostrov December 2, 2009 at 11:40 AM #

    Thank you,
    very interesting article

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