It’s a hard life being a solo artist that’s also in an enormously successful and hugely influential band. Inevitably, going it alone and the subsequent solo efforts that follow are greeted with either indifference or endless comparisons to the previous band. If there’s one thing about Julian Casablancas’ latest solo album though, it’s that we can definitely lay The Strokes comparisons to rest. Despite his new backing band having the kind of utterly god-awful name you’d expect to find in a 1986 bargain bin, they provide an invigorating new sense of drama to compliment the distinctive vocals of their frontman.
Opening track ‘Take Me in Your Army’ is as much of an off-kilter start as you can imagine. Dominated by fuzzy production and 8-bit drums, it’s a foreboding march that is closer in sound to video game music than any kind of indie band. Indeed, one of the tracks here is actually called ‘Nintendo Blood’, a song that also recalls the charming blips and slightly corny soundtracks of early nineties video games. There are rockier moments, too, of course. Lead single ‘Where No Eagles Fly’ kicks off with a creeping, tense bass line before exploding into an absolutely riotous chorus.
The unfortunate thing though is that as fast and furious as that song can be, it’s completely unmemorable. Casablancas’ greatest strength has always been in writing hooks that, no matter how many guitars or drums or fuzz they’re stacked behind, you’ll be humming them for days. They’re sadly exempt from the majority of this record, in many cases replaced by aimless noodling. By far the worst offender on the album is the aptly named ‘Human Sadness’, an 11 minute compilation of guitar and keyboard mush and ill-judged falsetto vocals, underlined by a dragging, dirge like beat.
Tyranny is a massive step outside the indie-guitar comfort zone and is enjoyable in places, but the apocalyptic themes found throughout and the general meandering just gives off the impression that Julian and the Voidz are having a lot more fun playing the music than you are listening to it.