Release Date: Mar 30, 2018
Record label: RCA
'Virtue' - the second offering from The Voidz (aka Julian Casablancas & The Voidz) - is truly a mercurial beast. Opening with previous single 'Leave It In My Dreams - a track filled with the kind of sparkling yet muted riffs that wouldn't sound wholly out of place nestled within JC's other band (you know, that one), it lures you into a false sense of security. Perhaps, you think, they've ditched the abrasiveness of 2014 debut 'Tyranny'? Perhaps, you wonder, our ol' buddy Jules is keeping it simpler this time around? WRONG.
When Julian Casablancas returned with his second non-Strokes record in 2014 (The Voidz's 'Tyranny') the world seemed bemused by the path he was taking. His 2009 solo album 'Phrazes For The Young' was a gleaming sci-fi pop masterpiece and The Strokes were, well, The Strokes. It might feel comfortable terming The Voidz's debut as a "classic Julian" move now, but after all that it felt like a massive curveball - one full of dystopian chaos and sonic challenges.
When Julian Casablancas looks at the modern world, he sees the increasingly blurry distinction between lies and truth. On Virtue, his second album with the Voidz, the New York rocker ponders whether it's possible to, as he told Vulture, “make complex truth sexy.” He attempts this feat with a more eclectic approach than on the Voidz's frustratingly abrasive 2014 debut, Tyranny. With Virtue, Casablancas casts a wide sonic net—from death-metal growl to chirpy falsetto, effects-laden synth-pop to lo-fi garage-punk—and doubles down on the Voidz's fiercely political focus.
Julian Casablancas is the living embodiment of making the most of what you have. Although he's been blessed with a pretty limited vocal range, he seems to be making the best of it and at times, its that voice which is the only consistent factor on Virtue. The good news is, he's sounding great. Virtue is touted as a "protest album." You can't walk 10 feet in any direction without falling over one at the moment it seems.
On Virtue, the Voidz emphasize that, first and foremost, they are a band. Julian Casablancas' name is gone from their moniker, and the elements of their music -- distorted beats and vocals, virtuosic guitars and synths -- coalesce into a style that's identifiably theirs. With the help of Tyranny producer Shawn Everett, the Voidz bring some more clarity to that style, as well as a greater sense of fun.
The Voidz, Virtue | ★★★ 1/2 Albert Hammond Jr., Francis Trouble | ★★ 1/2 Julian Casablancas stepped away from the Strokes with a fully loaded scattergun of musical ideas and an itchy trigger finger. With his main band settled into a modest middle age – he's made no bones about his boredom with it, though he remains the frontman – Casablancas approaches his new project the Voidz with a "no rules" sensibility à la his Seventies punk and art-rock heroes. Virtue is a sprawling, unpredictable mess that finds beauty and sometimes depth by looking for it everywhere.