Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tyranny - little right, little wrong

album review

The Voidz debut album is not meant to cater to a mainstream audience, and it won’t

Side projects can provide musicians with an avenue to express themselves outside the confines of their main acts, and that is precisely what Julian Casablancas has done with his new group The Voidz. The latest musical venture by The Strokes frontman sees him team up with a group of eclectic musicians — guitarists Beardo Gritter and Amir Yaghmai, bassist Jake Bercovici, keyboardist Jeff Kite and percussionist Alex Carapetis — and take full advantage of this opportunity to create the eccentric Tyranny.

Helmed by producer Shawn Everett, the group’s debut album delivers a raw blend of punk and alt rock, giving up the more polished sound of The Strokes in favour of an experimental visage. The musicians explore interesting ideas that sometimes come together nicely and at other times collapse under the raucous musical avalanche that envelopes them.

Bathed in angst and disappointment, the first single ‘Human Sadness’ represents the album fairly accurately. The song merges some terrific musical moments with self-indulgent overtures to create an 11-minute opus that is definitely ambitious but perhaps overly so. When these elements are successfully put together — as they are on songs like ‘Where No Eagles Fly’, ‘Crunch Punch’, and ‘Dare I Care’ — the result is exciting. At other times, the output seems too laboured and unfocused. There’s a lot going on in these 12 songs. Furious guitars, angry drums and frantic synths frequently make an appearance as the tracks play with melody and chaos, often at the same time. The effect falls closer to the industrial kick of Nine Inch Nails than to the indie and garage sound you would associate with Casablancas, who also wrote or co-wrote each of the songs on this set.

Experimentation arguably is the best use for a side project, and on that front, The Voidz emerge victorious. Tyranny was clearly not made to appease fans of its singer’s main act, nor does it seem concerned with the opinion of his detractors. It showcases a band that intended to create something interesting, but it also leaves you with the sense that the musicians who made it were perhaps trying a tad too hard. Instead of cramming every idea they could come up with into these overlong tracks, the output could have been more pleasant and accessible if they had reined in the discordance, making the songs less busy and more coherent (although that sentiment probably undercuts the attitude on display here).

As it stands, Tyranny is an unconventional effort by a group that seemed too enamoured with itself. The songs fall on a spectrum that ranges from compelling to grating, although the response to it simply comes down to the listener’s preferences. Even if you are a fan of The Strokes or enjoyed Casablancas’ solo album Phrazes for the Young, there is no guarantee that you will enjoy Tyranny. But if you are drawn towards music that is intriguingly weird, then you might want to give The Voidz debut record a spin.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

More for rock 'n' roll fans

1. Phrazes for the Young by Julian Casablancas
The first (and so far only) solo album by the lead singer of The Strokes, Phrazes for the Young saw Casablancas experimenting with ideas more freely while creating a short but enthusiastic set of alternative rock.

2. Comedown Machine by The Strokes
The slickness of the indie rock band’s latest album, their fifth release overall, might leave you yearning for more rawness, but its diversity and well crafted melodies still make it an interesting effort.

3. Hesitation Marks by Nine Inch Nails
The return of industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails (who briefly hired Alex Carapetis as a touring drummer in 2005) saw Trent Reznor and co. come up with their intriguing, inventive eighth album, Hesitation Marks.

- By Sameen Amer

Sunday Magazine, The Express Tribune - 16th November, 2014 *

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