Julian Casablancas
Phrazes for the Young


2.5
average

Review

by Eric USER (161 Reviews)
November 2nd, 2009 | 37 replies | 10,788 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Phrazes for the Young is a valiant effort, but the most obvious positive factor of Casablancas' first solo release is that we now know where his voice should stay- with The Strokes

10 of 12 thought this review was well written

"With this album, I can do whatever I want, but I wouldn't want to do that with the Strokes."

... so says Strokes frontman, Julian Casablancas, in a recent interview, referring to his new release and first solo album, Phrazes for the Young. I found his last comment here to be stunningly obvious yet very telling. In his stint with The Strokes, Casablancas had achieved his way to, or at least towards, indie stardom. Tight melodies, witty one-liners, and most notably Casablancas’ mellow vocals: The Strokes had plenty of fans at their fingertips no matter what country they were in. Phrazes for the Young isn’t going to capitalize on this grand fan base, and in truth I can’t imagine Casablancas gaining too many new friends over this. Though, to refer back to the aforementioned quote, this isn’t an artist looking to garner fans, this is Julian Casablancas setting out to make the music he wants to hear. If that happens to be his lonely voice over some bland yet Strokes-eque guitar lines and 80’s synth-pop, then so be it; but Phrazes for the Young is not meant to profit from The Strokes success. Despite some similarities, this feels like an entirely different entity.

It’s easy to see why The Strokes became so successful earlier this decade. In my experience at least, mothers, hipsters, radio rockers, no matter what the taste, everyone loved those tightly wound and hurried beats with Casablancas’ signature croon. The biggest problem with Phrazes is that, when devoid of those rushed, tight beats backing him, Casablancas’ droning voice becomes a little less lovable. “4 Chords of the Apocalypse” displays this well, as Julian’s slow warble bores like never before. The synth beats and the futuristic chirps and beeps throughout are definitely cheesy, and I can’t help but wonder why Casablancas would strive for this type production. Before I start giving Phrazes its fair share of credit, one last gripe needs to be addressed- the song length. Though the album spans a brief eight songs, most songs on Phrazes last longer than a tiring 5 minutes. Casablancas could’ve definitely ameliorated this listen with a more listener-friendly format. Once again, I refer back to the opening quote for his assumed explanation.

Please don’t take my negative ranting about Phrazes too seriously, as there are definitely positives to be found here. First and foremost is the apparent emotion that Casablancas has provides. The first lines show a manifest detraction from the neutrality and lack of feeling that Casablancas displayed with his party-boy, “I-don’t-really-give-a-***” anthems with The Strokes. "Somewhere along the way, my hopefulness turned to sadness/ Somewhere along the way, my sadness turned to bitterness/ Somewhere along the way, my bitterness turned to anger,” he says with his signature Casablancas croon.

Also apparent is a newfound sense of variety. It seems like Julian is throwing the entire inventory at the wall, and now he’s waiting to see what sticks. From the up-tempo electronically-tinged single “11th Dimension,” to Julian getting serious on us with his complaints of yuppie infiltration, complete with a banjo solo, in “Ludlow St.,” to the 80’s synth-pop burner “Out of the Blue,” Casablancas was bound to hit gold with this many attempts. Predictably, some work and some Julian is going to want to send back to the 80’s. “11th Dimension” does an adequate job of reliving that catchiness that defined The Strokes, but for me it only served as a reminder that nothing else on Phrazes for the Young reaches that same plane in terms of catchiness.

Give the kid some credit, he took some chances. And while most of them don’t quite work, Casablancas deserves some respect for straying outside of his comfort zone and, at the very least, creating an interesting record. Phrazes for the Young is not what I expected to hear, but to be honest I can’t say I’m very disappointed. You know that cheesy phrase, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Well, even though Casablancas can’t say he got THAT far, he at least makes it to the clouds. Phrazes for the Young is a valiant effort, but it also shows that Casablancas and his voice should probably stick where it fits best, with The Strokes.



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3.5
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Fugue (4)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
SeaAnemone
November 2nd 2009



20049 Comments


Thoughts, comments, and ratings appreciated.

Digging: Natural Snow Buildings - The Night Country

thebhoy
Emeritus
November 2nd 2009



4459 Comments


Though the album lasts a brief eight songs, most songs don’t last less than 5 minutes


redundancy. Don't use the "last" after the comma. I think this happens a couple of other times in the review, but this is just an example. Otherwise, solid review. I never listened to the Strokes, so yeah I'm not going to get this.

SeaAnemone
November 2nd 2009



20049 Comments


Thanks- fixed that one and I'll spot the others... bad habit of mine errggg.

AtavanHalen
November 2nd 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Please stop using I, me, my - it shits me up the wall.

Also, I thought this was good. River of Brakelights and Tourist are excellent.

SeaAnemone
November 2nd 2009



20049 Comments


I'm never sure about first person... I kinda go back in forth in my reviews as it has its own pros and cons, but lately I've been doing it more and more. Thanks for the advice though, I think I'll back off.

And really? River sounded very dull to me, Tourist I didn't mind, though.

AtavanHalen
November 2nd 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's just a niggling thing on my behalf. I find pretty much every reviewer that does it is either really amateur or really egotistical.

I think his voice is amazing throughout the record, and good on him for trying some new things.

thebhoy
Emeritus
November 2nd 2009



4459 Comments


There's nothing wrong with using "I, me, my", as long as it isn't really referring to the music, ie. this is my favourite song, or I really like the guitar part here.

AtavanHalen
November 2nd 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I disagree.
It's easy to just say "this is the best song on the record", or "this song features an excellent guitar part" etc

SeaAnemone
November 2nd 2009



20049 Comments


I agree with the "amateur-ish" statement to an extent... notice though when I did use first person it was to signify something I felt about the record that I recognize can't necessarily be backed up by indisputable facts, but was still valuable to the feeling I got from the record and therefore I felt was important.

Nevertheless, I see your point, and I'll definitely stray away from that format as there ARE better ways to get my point across.

AtavanHalen
November 2nd 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's cool, man.

You're well on your way to being a contrib, you've got some great work in your portfolio.

SeaAnemone
November 2nd 2009



20049 Comments


Much appreciated atavan... critiquing is always welcome because there are some far better writers on Sputnik than I.

AtavanHalen
November 2nd 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

No problem.
Hey, why not head over to my latest and let me know what you think?

Fugue
November 3rd 2009



7352 Comments


Nicely written, I completely disagree about the rating though, this is a very good album. I'll try and get a review up soon to counter this one haha.

blumpkin696
November 3rd 2009



37 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Anyone else like Glass as much as I do?

Fugue
November 3rd 2009



7352 Comments


Glass is good but 11th Dimension is by far and away the best track here.

ianjulian
November 3rd 2009



627 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

tocayo

Digging: Trioscapes - Digital Dream Sequence

Mr_Coffee
November 3rd 2009



631 Comments


I heard one song and it was horrible. I really like The Strokes, though.

robin
Emeritus
November 3rd 2009



4248 Comments


not as good as i was hoping, definetely good to know casablancas has a load of material up his sleeve though.

PuddlesPuddles
November 3rd 2009



4772 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Yeah Yeah ^

Julian Casablancas >> "Julian Plenti"

poweroftheweez
November 3rd 2009



1290 Comments


i might check this out if only cuz ive been wondering just what the hell he's been up to since First Impressions.
very good review anemone.



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