Julian Casablancas – Phrazes for the Young

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Rating: ★★½ · ·

It’s been a long long time since the essence of cool was brought back by The Strokes.  No longer do we have to listen to stagnant rock on the radio, and the indie underground seems to have grown substantially.  We owe a great deal of that to Julian Casablancas.  His new album Phrazes for the Young creates a certain sense of nostalgia; it makes you look back to those days when it all seemed new and vibrant. 

Hands down, the first three songs on this record, “Out of the Blue,” “Left and Right in the Dark,” and “11th Dimension,” are all ridiculously good songs.  You can say that they have a more pop-centric leaning than most of the work done by Casablancas other band, but you can’t deny that the infections hooks are in abundance on these first three tracks.  If you take “11th Dimension” alone, you can see that combining the swagger of The Strokes with the electronic pop of Phoenix packs a huge punch.  This is such a killer opening to the album, that it really makes the latter half of the album fall flat on its face before our eyes.

Once you get to the last five songs, the pace is gone, and with it, the depth that seemingly existed from the outstart.  “Ludlow St.” has sort of a throwback feeling to a summer folk string, almost as if The Beatles have just entered into Julian’s lexicon, while the lyrics are reminiscent of Whitman’s Song of Myself.  It’s clever, but it is not a song that will last long in your memory.

“River of Brakelights” does sound exactly like some of the more straightforward rock songs that eclipsed the gems that were on First Impression of Earth.  Unfortunately, Julian Casablancas has a difficult time as it is differentiating the tones in vocals, and this song makes that all too apparent, which lead to the damage that devours this track. 

All this seems to head towards the trudgingly slow “Tourist,” a song that is lyrically akin to “Ludlow St.” All the punch is clearly gone at this point, and you can feel your heart sink as the album draws to a close.  It’s a shame actually, as the record began with such a promising start that you wanted the entire thing to be successful, but our luck has run out here.  Still, for those die-hard completists, you will find the voice of The Strokes living in a different place, one that at times, is as exciting as we’ve ever heard him.  Perhaps such moments make it onto the new work of either of his bands.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Julian-Casablancas-11th-Dimension.mp3]

Download: Julian Casablancas – 11th Dimension [MP3]

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