From the beginning: I read a review of Is This It, which my father handed me. It said, “put on the Strokes. Bounce” and I did. I saw the band live at the Avalon in Boston that year; Julian Casablancas, their lead singer, had dirty, long hair and a leather jacket. The girls were in love. There ….
Perhaps it's fitting that Julian Casablancas' solo album arrived last out of all of the projects the Strokes pursued during their post-First Impressions of Earth hiatus. Albert Hammond, Jr. and Nikolai Fraiture stayed close to the band's mold with their extracurricular projects, and while Fabrizio Moretti's work with Little Joy might technically sound more different than his main band's music, it doesn't feel as bold as Phrazes for the Young.
Julian Casablancas's solo debut is dressed up with 80s-inspired synths and power-pop guitar, but underneath it's a bare-bones country album. [rssbreak] Take opener Out Of The Blue, a downtrodden tale of regret and busted friendships built around four chords and a simple 4/4 beat. Or Ludlow St., a waltzy, booze-soaked ode to getting wasted. There are liberal doses of Leonard Cohenish turns of phraze.
What is the sound of one Stroke clapping? The group’s frontman is the latest band member? to seek solo-projectdom, and the result, Phrazes for the Young, sounds, well, not unlike the Strokes. Casablancas forsakes the group’s fuzz-rock purism, however, for more varied — if still retro — pursuits, as on the groovy Casio boogaloo ”11th Dimension.” In the end, deliberately(?) tinny tracks such as ”Glass” sound like sketches in search of a full band. Hopefully, said band will soon oblige.
Over on the Downing Street website lurks an e-petition calling for "sleep education" to become part of the national curriculum. Should the government choose to heed its demands, they could save themselves a lot of time and money simply by showing schoolchildren the official Q&A video for Julian Casablancas's debut solo album, Phrazes for the Young, currently on YouTube. No need for structured lessons: within seconds of the Strokes' frontman unleashing his interview technique on a defenceless cameraman, even the most hyperactive of the kids would be out like a light.
In 2002, the Strokes played their song "Take It or Leave It" on "The Late Show With David Letterman". The performance was so incredible it almost seems unfair. In it, a 23-year old Julian Casablancas manhandled his mic stand, eyed the camera with a hypnotic mix of rage and anxiety, and tugged at his jacket as if he was about to burst. At one point, Casablancas swatted his mic down and left the stage in a huff only to return exactly as guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr.
At first glance The Strokes and Kiss wouldn't seem to have much in common, but as The Strokes continue to not release Strokes albums and instead put out solo and side projects, they become less and less the sum of their parts—much like that time each KISS member released his own solo record. And, like the KISS solo efforts, each subsequent Stroke's record is less and less interesting than the one that came before, to say nothing of their output as an actual band. .
As a musical reference point, people have the Eighties all wrong. Comparing new music to an entire decade is a pretty careless move to begin with, but the new artists that attract the comparison tend to be a world away from the spirit of synthpop, the genre that supposedly defines the period. Just because Little Boots, for example, uses some keyboards, it doesn’t make her music ‘Eighties’.