Article by Andrés Alvarado
It’s been said that variety is the spice of life. In judging Julian Casablancas’ career one can surely assume the man abides by this motto, at least artistically. From his early days fronting New York cool-cats The Strokes, to his solo act, and now as The Voidz‘ head-honcho, Casablancas’ musical versatility is science-like, and class is in session. Virtue, the follow-up to 2014’s Tyranny, is a beautiful mess of intertwined genres and political bravado that fucks with the senses. While the album’s poignant governmental critique is crystal clear, the listener walks away both awed and confused by the hooks, synths, and just the general artistic vision by which this gang operates; and that is plenty fine.
The Voidz’ sophomore effort kicks off with “Leave It In My Dreams,” the most Strokes-oriented and accessible track on the record. Brimming of soft-toned strings, Dreams draws a relaxed picture through Jules’ snarling baritone meshed to mid-paced drums and keys. While Dreams heavily favors Angles-type of Strokes, it serves as a gentle bridge for the Is This It purists walking into the insanity soon to unveil.
Moving forward, we bump into second single “QYURRYUS,” and just like its spelling, an interesting concoction. It’s here where we witness The Voidz at their experimental best. What can be described as a rich mash-up between auto-tune, synths, and seemingly Arabian-like undertones, this anthem has all the ingredients to flop. However, the result is catchy, unique, and downright spellbinding.
Experimentation presses on through ALieNNatioN, which brings to the table a mellow contrivance of hip-hop melodies tied to Casablancas’ moody drawl and member Jeff Kite’s finest keyboards work on Virtue. Adding fuel to the fire is the commanding thrash/glam smash-up “Pyramid of Bones.” The band’s latest banger channels an inner Sabbath badassery that shines a spotlight not only Jules’ impressive vocal prowess, but also the forceful bite in Jeramy “Beardo” Gritter and Amir Yaghmai’s wickedly robust guitars. Rounding out Virtue’s best jams are the brooding “Pointlessness,” soulful “Pink Ocean,” First Impressions of Earth-nostalgic “Permanent High School,” the mid-paced funkadelia of “Lazy Boy,” and punchy numbers “Black Hole,” “We’re Where We Were,” and “One of the Ones.”
As previously stated, experimentation is the name of the game on Virtue. This concept brings about high rewards, but also high risks that may backfire. As such, Virtue carries a trifecta of duds, namely wonky “Wink,” filibuster “All Wordz Are Made Up,” and the cringe-worthy attempt at Americana “Think Before You Drink.”
Virtue, like Tyranny, is bonkers and well outside the box. It’s not for everyone, but it is inviting. The troupe’s second effort pushes the boundaries, but more importantly it breaks the perceived stigma of being Julian Casablancas’ side project and firmly projects them as The Voidz, a band with its own identity. Virtue is not an all-time masterpiece, but it is a towering achievement worthy of your undivided attention. Cheers!
Score: 8.5/10 — Key Tracks: “QYURRYUS,” “ALieNNatioN,” “Pyramid of Bones,” “Pointlessness,” “Pink Ocean,” and “Permanent High School.”