How does one even begin to describe Julian Casablancas + the Voidz’s debut album “Tyranny”? Nothing about this album makes any sense, as its diverse sound ranges from groovy bass lines and drum sections to flat-out weird segments of noise.
The only aspect that has cohesion is that there is no cohesion to the songs. And yet, it is perfect.
For anyone unfamiliar with Julian Casablancas’ musical background, here’s a quick recap: in 2001, his band, the Strokes, released “Is This It,” defining the course of what garage rock would sound like for the remainder of the decade.
A sad but brief Strokes hiatus resulted in his first solo album, 2009’s “Phrazes for the Young.” The Strokes released two albums after “Phrazes,” and, as of 2014, Casablancas has founded Cult Records, become a father, sobered up and now notched a third project under his belt, The Voidz.
Listening to “Tyranny” and then listening back to “Is This It,” it is hard to believe that the same man wrote these songs.
Whereas the Strokes’ magic lies in its simplicity and its direct ability to hit listeners with emotion, riffs and lyrics, the Voidz buries all of these more obvious elements under a stunning sonic cacophony.
Every minute of “Tyranny” offers something special and different, combining punk riffs with eclectic drum beats and crazy keyboards—making it totally indefinable.
To compare Casablancas’ projects would be unfair to both bands. Both provide their own strengths and weaknesses, but underlying each of Casablancas’ projects is an unwavering capability of reaching the deepest regions of one’s spirit; his sound connects anyone who listens via purity, truth and humility.
“Tyranny” is a militant opera, with themes of war emanating throughout the entire album. Opening with “Take Me in Your Army” and ending with “Off to War…,” Casablancas communicates that in his experience, life is war: his career, his love and his family—all have been a battle, a struggle that seemingly has no end yet through which he has no choice but to persevere.
Summarizing this odyssey is the epic 11-minute “Human Sadness,” a musical novel of sorts, with various chapters differing in melody, rhythm and tone, each expressing the chaotic aspects of life that can make something like sadness quite precious.
Immediately following “Human Sadness,” the Voidz transfer their energy to more intense and aggressive sounds. “Where No Eagles Fly” and “Father Electricity” are the rhythmic highlights, with the former featuring a Jonny Craig-esque screamo sequence and a banging bass line.
“Father Electricity” just shreds its way through eight minutes of tribal drumming, segueing energetically to the equally intoxicating “Johan Von Bronx.”
The best way to describe “Tyranny” overall is that an eight-bit version of any given song on the album would not sound too different from the original; Casablancas’ aesthetic is retro in the best way imaginable.
Catch Julian Casablancas + the Voidz next month, when they’ll be playing at the Wiltern and the Observatory.
RECOMMENDED: To anyone with an open mind and hips that are ready to shake.