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Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7.25
Musicianship 7
Lyrics 7
Production 8
Creativity 7.5
Lasting Value 6.75
Reviewer Tilt 7.5
Final Verdict: 73%
Member Ratings
Vocals 5.05
Musicianship 4.7
Lyrics 4.95
Production 6.1
Creativity 4.3
Lasting Value 4.3
Reviewer Tilt 5.1
Average: 49%

Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young

Reviewed by: Jeremy Aaron (11/05/09)
Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young
Record Label: RCA
Release Date: November 3, 2009

Conventional wisdom usually leads us to infer that an album by a frontman-gone-solo would lean toward the stripped-down, acoustic variety, but in the case of The Strokes' singer Julian Casablancas, our intuition would mislead us. Of all the band members' post-hiatus projects, which include Albert Hammond Jr.'s two solo albums, Nikolai Fraiture's Nickel Eye, and Fabrizio Moretti's Little Joy, Casablancas's debut Phrazes for the Young falls farthest stylistically from The Strokes' output. Released from the burden of operating within the confines of his band's sound, he seems compelled to cram as many disparate elements as possible into these songs, including synths, programmed beats, horns and countryish accompaniments, and the results are often surprisingly palatable but frequently come off as turgid and forced.

Fans looking for something at least remotely Strokes-like will have to get their fill with the relatively organic opener "Out of the Blue," on which the album's ever-present synths take a back seat to tinny guitars. After that, things definitely trend in a very "manufactured" direction, heavy with keys and programmed beats. "Left and Right in the Dark" recalls the '80s New Romantic movement with it's echoed electronic effects in its verses-- it's hard not to hear A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran (So Far Away)" in there-- and Casablancas's vocal sounds a bit awkward until the song transitions to a more conventional rock arrangement for the choruses. Throughout the album as a whole, the vocals have a sort of polarizing effect; they exude a sense of comfort because Casablancas's voice is distinct and familiar, but it feels like there's something missing because he sounds so deliberate and calculated here, in contrast with the more chaotic and eccentric delivery we've come to expect.

"11th Dimension," the album's first single, and a solid choice at that with its infectious "Rebel Rebel"-like synth line, is relatable, but somewhat heavy-handed, with Casablancas musing, "I live on the frozen surface of a fireball, where cities come together to hate each other in the name of sport." He wishes we could all just get along, advising "Forgive them even if they're not sorry." If only it were that easy. The song's feel-good vibe flies in the face of the song's underlying message, as if to ignore the challenges it presents.

The mood does grow more somber on the blues-soul ballad "4 Chords of the Apocalypse" and the unusual electro-country shuffle "Ludlow St." Equally strange is "River of Brakelights," a curious concoction of New Wave and scratchy fuzz-rock. While this trio of songs exemplify his hyperactive compulsion to explore as many avenues as possible, often misguidedly, "4 Chords" and "Ludlow St." are at least buoyed by memorable melodies. On "Brakelights" however, the stylistic synthesis is more uneven, lacking the grace and delicate balance of its predecessors and begging for something to hold it all together.

The shiny ballad "Glass" and the hypnotic "Tourist" close out the album, and in doing so, highlight one of its major drawbacks. They're overtly precious and seem like attempts to display maturity, but turn out haphazard (the discodant horn-and-synth combination on "Tourist" is downright irritating), protracted (all of these songs exceed four minutes in length, half of them running over five, contrasting with The Strokes' taut first two albums, neither of which contained a four minute song), and mostly dull (only a few of these tracks remain compelling for their entire duration). Phrazes for the Young has some worthwhile moments, but unlike the catalog of The Strokes proper, or even Albert Hammond Jr. for that matter, it doesn't seem likely to leave a lasting impression.

Recommended If You LikeHockey's Mind Chaos
Office's A Night at the Ritz
The Celebrity Pilots' Beneath the Pavement, a Beach!
Fountains of Wayne's Traffic and Weather
Phoenix's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Track Listing1. Out of the Blue (4:41)
2. Left and Right in the Dark (4:54)
3. 11th Dimension (4:03)
4. 4 Chords of the Apocalypse (4:59)
5. Ludlow St. (5:42)
6. River of Brakelights (5:08)
7. Glass (5:20)
8. Tourist (5:02)
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 20
01:57 PM on 11/05/09
Keagan Ilvonen
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Keagan Ilvonen's Avatar
I have been meaning to check this out. I have heard lack luster results but I'm still curious. Good job though Jeremy.
02:42 PM on 11/05/09
Holly HoX!
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Holly HoX!'s Avatar
After the he released his first single I had very high hopes for this album. Even though it didn't necessarily live up to them I can't dislike it. I find myself loving whatever Julian does. There are a few tracks that made me cringe, one of them being "River of Breaklights," but for the most part I enjoyed this album.
07:30 AM on 11/06/09
Registered User
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Kapa73's Avatar
I agree with this review. I really like the single, but I think the majority of this release just has too much going on and is way over my head
08:23 AM on 11/06/09
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Chop[chop]'s Avatar
Humm. Still very undecided on this. Long tracks with a lot of different things going on, but it's by no means a poor album.
09:10 AM on 11/06/09
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i happen to enjoy this album, i would recommend it to anyone who misses the strokes as much as i do

on a side note, i prefer album hammond, jr.'s solo works, so good
10:05 AM on 11/06/09
Scott Weber
Live Like a Legend
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Scott Weber's Avatar
I like this record a lot, but I get mildly annoyed every time I hear the Brian May (Queen) guitar rip-offs.
10:27 AM on 11/06/09
Welcome to the Blue Hell
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brenByah's Avatar
This man's the single reason why I could never get into The Strokes.
11:28 AM on 11/06/09
glory glory
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IamTheINDUSTRY's Avatar
dude from interpol put out the solo record of the year.
12:20 PM on 11/06/09
adam . . . ???
watch the world instead
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adam . . . ???'s Avatar
Good Review. I lol'd at the RIYL section and seeing Phoenix there. I always thought of them as being a Strokes cover band, and to say the lead singer of the Strokes sounds like them made me laugh a bit. Both great bands still.
01:30 PM on 11/06/09
makin' good time
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Ryzenfall's Avatar
Still think 11th Dimension is a fantastic song. Not sold on the rest of the record though, except maybe River of Brakelights and 4 Chords.
01:39 PM on 11/06/09
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thesaddestfilm's Avatar
Good Review. I lol'd at the RIYL section and seeing Phoenix there. I always thought of them as being a Strokes cover band, and to say the lead singer of the Strokes sounds like them made me laugh a bit. Both great bands still.
they formed at the same time. i'd say phoenix has way more going on than the strokes, musically.

but still, why do people even compare the two?
09:16 PM on 11/08/09
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Steve_JustAGuy's Avatar
Good review, good album
07:16 AM on 11/09/09
Take Apart Your Head
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Shatter_Glass's Avatar
still testing the waters with this one, half of the tracks catch my attention. the bonus tracks are pretty good though.
10:23 AM on 11/09/09
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this album was a disappointment.
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