Julian Casablancas + The Voidz are a very recently formed band. In 2013, Casablancas surprised us all by making an unexpected collaboration with Daft Punk in Random Access Memories’s ‘Instant Crush’. We got a new aspect of Casablancas’s vocal work and the development seems to be one that has stayed with him and influencing him during this side project.
First out Tyranny is wildly different to anything that has come from Casablancas before and calling it ambitious would be cutting it short. This is high-risk, highly experimental musical work that’s accompanied with dark undertones, both blindingly obvious from song titles (‘Human Sadness’ and ‘M.utually A.ssured D.estruction to name a couple) and more subtly in the structure and content of the lyricism.
‘Where No Eagles Fly’ is particularly strange discussing predators and meat, wolves and sheep but it might even be refreshingly so. The emotionally drearier themes that come through in the The Strokes’s back catalogue is seemingly magnified here. It’s all a bit grungier and heavier than anything The Strokes have ever done and resonates with the crazier stuff seen from the likes of Cage the Elephant in Thank You, Happy Birthday.
But throughout the album, even though the instrumental work is not exactly appealing, the oddities and extras are splices of uniqueness in what could have been a disastrously similar sound to The Strokes. And while unique and an excellent example of a man defined by his previous work branching into new stuff, it feels like that’s could be all it- an attempt to not be The Strokes.
The synthesizers and use of distortion accompanies the rest of the instruments a bit oddly; they’re a bit too strong at points and drown out some solid rhythmic and lead work coming form guitarists Jeramy Gritter and Amir Yaghmai. Fortunately, this usually quiets down leaving them to shine but it still feels unnecessary. One particular titles, ‘Crunch Punch’, is actually staggeringly good coming with an excellent beat and rthymically like The Strokes, while the aforementioned synthesizers and distortions are actually an effective enhancement to the sound.
And, unfortunately, sometimes these clashes of instruments and mangled hazes of sound that is ultimately disconnecting from an album that could have been a much more interesting. While the album is engaging, even intriguing, it can just throw you off and while it’s awesome at being different, it overpowers itself just a few too many times.