Review: Julian Casablancas

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

In almost every way, Phrazes for the Young is the record that we all wish the Strokes had made after Is This It. The band's classic 2001 debut was followed by a decent—albeit predictable—continuation of its garage-heavy sound on 2003's Room on Fire, then a baffling jumble on 2006's First Impressions of Earth. Now, almost a decade after Julian Casablancas & Co. made Chuck Taylors cool again, those early lofty expectations are finally fulfilled. The solo debut from the Strokes frontman is a deranged epiphany on which Casablancas reemerges as an inspired rock genius—and not so subtly proves, with the others absent, that the Strokes are holding him back.

At once fresh yet a throwback to the Moog-filled '70s and '80s, Phrazes occupies a universe apart from the spare sounds of early Strokes. Casablancas has plunged headlong into a complex synth daze, furthering his development as a master of repurposing. If the earlier Strokes canon was "My Generation," Phrazes is "Baba O'Riley." And while "River of Brakelights"—a paranoid, pumping surge—owes as much to the Who as it does to LCD Soundsystem, the song also recalls the pulsating drive of "Hard to Explain" from Is This It. Similarly, the frightening opening of "Ludlow St." is pure Kubrickian psychedelia, but the recollections are vintage hungover Casablancas. A raw rock element lurks beneath the synthetics, an evolution becomes clear, and from a great rock & roll writer come phrases that were worth the wait. 


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Phrazes for the Young (RCA)