10 December 2009

Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young

So what can one expect from a solo album by the Strokes singer?

Songs sung in that typical strained croon. [✓][✓][✓][✓][✓][✓][✓][✓]
Songs about NYC. [✓][✓]
Songs about drinking. [✓][✓]
Songs about regret. [✓][✓][✓][✓][✓][✓]

So why is this different from a Strokes record? For one, the production is cleaner. Two, the songs are long. Three, it's a lot more varied than any Strokes record to date. There's the typical fast rock songs with berating keyboard ("Out of the Blue", "River of Brakelights"), Nashville gospel lament ("Four Chords of the Apocalypse", "Ludlow St."), straight-up pop songs ("Left and Right in the Dark", "11th Dimension"), and a couple of snoozers at the end ("Glass", "Tourist").

Incidentally, the pop songs and country laments are the best on the record. While both pop songs are synth-heavy, the underlying pulsating guitar in "Left and Right in the Dark" make this the best song on the album. And while "11th Dimension" (is that a reference to string theory?) is ear candy to the, er, 11th degree, it's a song that gets tiresome after multiple listens. But it's exactly at this point that following "Four Chords of the Apocalypse" and "Ludlow St" start to stand out. The former is the type of song featured in a romantic comedy, about three-fourths of the way through, when the lead characters have gotten into a fight and have both independently decided that they should get back together- female character looks vaguely sad while staring through a rainy window, male character walks the boardwalk alone, ruefully watching laughing couples, cue missed phone calls, an aborted flirtation with a blind date, and Drew Berrymore and Zac Efron are back together, more in love than ever. And Ludlow St, a song about dranking and the bitterness that so often accompanies a failed relationship.

The songs that sound most like the Strokes are ok, but they're in need of serious edits. All the songs on this album clock in at over 4 minutes, and about half are at least 5. If some of these songs were streamlined (really, who needs a mandolin solo? What is this, Medeski Martin and Wood?), they'd prove to be a lot more effective. This album- 8 songs, 40 minutes- would probably do better as a 5 song EP.

There's this guy Frank Sartor- he used to be Mayor of Sydney, now he's a member of the State Cabinet- who came to speak to my class. "It's all about managing expectations," he said. "If you give a girl flowers every day, she'll come to expect them. But if you only give her flowers once a year, you look like Don Juan." (I'm paraphrazing). And after the last Strokes record, this could have been half as good and still smelt like roses.

02 Left & Right in the Dark by regularexpress