Julian Casablancas doesn’t play by the rules anymore.
Upon first listen, his new album “Tyranny” may sound like a mad scientist’s creation. It’s a bizarre, mysterious, outside-the-box barrage of sounds that mix together to form an album like no other. Traditional song structures and smooth production are abandoned in favor of a raw release. Vocals melt behind powerful riffs and blasts of cacophony. “Tyranny” is truly an adventure into no man’s land and, as Casablancas puts it, a protest record against mainstream society.
Casablancas, now 36, has always had a nostalgic side. This is evident from his classic rock ’n’ roll days with The Strokes and his ’80s-influenced solo album “Phrazes for the Young.” In “Tyranny,” he finally steps outside of his comfort zone and fully releases his creativity. Acting as backing band are The Voidz, an assemblage of musicians who have fully bought into Casablancas’ new style.
The use of unconventional sounds brings tremendous flavor to the album. Numerous cultural influences, including sounds of Arabia and Latin America, come together well with catchy guitar and electronic vibes. Ambitious guitar riffs, however, are what truly fuel the album. They are especially strong in “Dare I Care” and “Johan Von Bronx.” Casablancas also shows off the extensive power and range of his vocals, with high-pitched falsettos and deep growls, and has taken strides lyrically as well.
Every track brings something different to the table. With the spacey, Daft Punk-influenced “Take Me in Your Army,” the tropical vibe of “Father Electricity,” the sounds of revolution in “Mutually Assured Destruction,” and the gently pulsing “Xerox,” it’s a pleasantly diverse album. Tyranny’s finest track may be “Human Sadness,” an 11-minute collage of emotions and melodies. Only the not-so-grand-finale, “Off to War,” disappoints.
It can be said that “Tyranny” is a masterpiece for the rebels. It’s far beyond the comprehension of mainstream pop. In fact, the music finds itself in a “void,” but Julian Casablancas and the Voidz have found life and energy in this unknown. If this truly is the sound of the future, we are in for one heck of a ride.