Music Review: Julian Casablancas' “Phrazes for the Young (Deluxe Edition)”

12/14/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Gita Gupte

To me, Julian Casablancas has always been the embodiment of “cool.” The lead singer and songwriter of The Strokes instantly became my favorite member of the band when I discovered them, by way of a friend, in the early 2000s. With his leather-clad ensembles, marching band jackets, skinny jeans (before they were en vogue), high-top sneakers, shaggy hair and devil-may-care attitude, Julian became an icon to a generation otherwise being fed teen pop and boy-band ballads. I credit him and his band-mates for bringing the authenticity of New York punk/indie rock music, inspired by ‘70s favorites such as The Ramones and The New York Dolls, back into our lives.

So, when I heard that Julian had taken up a solo project, I was both excited and a bit nervous. I feared that a band that had changed my life was about to break-up. Thankfully though, The Strokes were simultaneously working on their fourth studio release. With my nerves quelled, I decided to embrace Julian’s debut solo album, “Phrazes for the Young.”

The album is an accurate demonstration of Julian’s varied musical talents, which aren’t always utilized in full when playing with The Strokes (due to the presence of four other gifted artists). Julian’s familiar tortured voice and lyrics bring us a raw understanding of the hypocrisies of this world, while his musical arrangements give us something up-beat to bop our heads to.

The album’s first single, “11th Dimension,” is a synthy ‘80s masterpiece that makes you wish you could’ve experienced the New York underground scene in its heyday. The song is a far cry from punk rock, but it definitely gets the club kids going. The other non-Strokes-esque song on the album is “4 Chords of the Apocalypse,” which basically is rock gone Motown.

All the other tracks share the same punk-influenced rock sounds for which The Strokes are famous. But this absolutely is welcome. Julian’s debut showing could have just as easily been released as a Strokes album and I would’ve dug it just the same.

In “Ludlow St.,” a song about the Lower East Side location known for former rocker dens gone Wall St., Julian notes, “On Ludlow St. faces are changing, on Ludlow St. yuppies invading, on Ludlow St. nightlife is raging, on Ludlow St. history’s fading and it’s hard to just move along.” So eloquently stated.

One of my favorite lyrics from this album comes in “Out of the Blue,” in which Julian admits, “Yes, I know I’m going to hell in a leather jacket.” Ever the rockstar--even he knows it.

Probably my favorite song on the album is “Tourist,” which has beautiful guitar licks reminiscent of ‘70s classic rock bands such as The Eagles and The Doors. It is a slower song that has both beauty and depth.

I recommend investing the extra couple of bucks to get the “Deluxe Edition” of “Phrazes for the Young.” This version includes three songs not on the original release, “Old Hollywood,” “30 Minute Boyfriend,” and “I Wish it Was Christmas.” (Yes, even Julian Casablancas can’t resist putting out a Christmas tune).

Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker or it’s because I’m a Strokes fan or perhaps it’s a little bit of both, but to me this album is nothing short of awesome--and I can’t wait to hear what Julian has in store for us next.

Grade: A

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