Jules Imparts Hedonist Wisdom on Young

Julian Casablancas
Phrazes for the Young

Screen shot 2009-11-05 at 10.53.12 AMHallelujah! Praise the gods of alt-rock: Julian Casablancas — the prodigal savior — has returned. Frontman of millennium sensation the Strokes, Casablancas has finally followed in his mates’ footsteps and produced side project Phrazes for the Young. For all the dark clouds of mediocrity that were Nickel Eye, Little Joy and Albert Hammond Jr., Phrazes is the silver lining.

If you want to get super technical, this LP is basically an upbeat, double-speed version of a Strokes album, not helped by Casablancas’ distinctive voice. Borrowing disco-pop beats, a few synths and a positive attitude, the artist weaves his jams with dance, boister and genuine fun. Having eight solid, full-length cuts rather than 15 short ones was an excellent decision, vastly upping the quality and nuance of every track.

Lyrics are a different story, though, dragging his sweet sound with the melancholy of a thousand Debbie Downers. In lead-off single “11th Dimension,” Casablancas gets as political as he’s ever been, calling out America for its shady backroom dealings. “Forgive them/ Even if they are not sorry,” Jesus — ahem — Julian croons, which may be a tad more difficult for us unwashed heathens, as we aren’t all as holy as thou.

For a nice, chill change of pace, “4 Chords of the Apocalypse” showcases Casablancas’ soulful preacher pipes, further embellishing blatant religious undertones and imparting a wisdom that would normally require years of bible study. But J. Cass has been to the “11th Dimension,” up and down the country-fried weirdness that’s “Ludlow St.” and through the paranoid stutter-rock of “River of Brakelights.” That unwashed heap of hair isn’t merely for looks — it’s concealing a gigantic brain. Dang.

So even if we can’t have a new Strokes record until each member gets his panties out of a twist, Phrazes for the Young is the next best thing. And it’s righteous as they come.