Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dollar Store Hallucinations: Julian Casablancas' Phrazes for the Young

"Why don't I move to LA? Take my plants, record an album, start a new life?
Orso's closing, but that's okay."

It's a bit uneven as an album, but there are enough solid moments that I'd probably shell out the $9.99 (or whatever it is that a CD costs) for Julian Casablancas' Phrazes for the Young. With production duties handled by Jason Ladder (who once twiddled knobs for bad-haircut Jeep rockers Maroon 5 and Jenny Lewis) as well as Mike Mogis (one of those Saddle Creek types - blame him for the countrified moments, I guess), Mr. Casablancas' premiere outing as a solo artist is a trippy, slightly claustrophobic ride through roller-rink synthesizers, ELO circa Time chord progressions, and half-baked ideas that is over-all, pretty damn charming.

Your Easy-Pocket Reference Points...
The dominant mode here is theatrical studio fuckery. It's not overwrought genre-fuckery like The Bees who sometimes get it right (Chicken Payback) and sometimes get it terribly wrong (Travelin' Man), and it's not as polished as Jason Schwartzman's Coconut Records, which sometimes errs so poorly and frequently you do think, "Oh yeah, Los Angeles, Maroon 5, guys with too much money who really like Phoenix." I have to admit that even I loathe them, the closest reference I can make is to Of Montreal, as busy, as many textures and ideas, albeit thankfully more tasteful. Let's hope the much-hyped Casablancas stage show is more than him dancing around with tin-foil flute playing woodland creatures and other dollar-store hallucinations.

At its worst, the confusion becomes a bit much in mid-album song River of Brakelights, which has no discernible hooks, just a series of proggy keyboard lines and a chorus that sounds like the desperate chants of a robot assembly-line moments before exploding due to over-work. At it's best, you have the two songs above... Album-opener Out of the Blue is pretty damn fun, gradually developing into a supremely hooky song over a 4/4 drum-machine demo rhythm. 11th Dimension is the single - great guitar hooks, that aforementioned roller-rink syntehsizer line, and the busy hyper-produced guitar-sound that popped up on the Strokes' 12:51.

Now a short-time LA resident and loving the weather (as his bandmate's father once sang, "It Never Rains in Southern California"), Mr. Casablancas is performing 3 times in Los Angeles and once in San Francisco before embarking on a short tour. No Montreal or (more surprisingly) New York dates announced yet, but he will be in Vancouver at The Commodore Ballroom on November 23rd.

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