Artist: Julian Casablancas and The Voidz
Record Label: Kobalt/Cult Records
Release Date: 13th October 2014
The year is 2014. We travel by space plane, where a trip from New York to LA takes less than an hour. We dine on Olestra, a synthetic fat built to turn cookies and fried foods into low calorie treats. Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh are the world’s super powers. Welcome to the future’s past or more accurately this was the Wall Street Journal’s prediction of today back in 1989. If the modern day had turned out in the way WSJ had prophesied, Julian Casablancas and his new endeavour, The Voidz would be this time’s megastars. See, The Strokes lynchpin has always aimed for music to transcend time, with his day job’s debut LP ‘Is This It’ JC wanted it to sound like “a band from the past that took a time trip into the future to make their record”. Whilst proportions of the New Yorker’s back catalogue nods towards a sonic projection fleshed out via a DeLorean, it’s with JC’s second solo album and his first with The Voidz, where his vision is realised. This vision is called ‘Tyranny’ and it’s a throbbing, Blade Runner meets Super Mario meets 80s hardcore punk by the way of Terminator’s Cyberdyne Systems model 101. All aboard the next space plane to oblivion…
There’s two gateways into ‘Tyranny’ be it via lead single ‘Where No Eagles Fly’ or mechanical opener ‘Take Me In Your Army’. Whilst sonically both tracks are poles apart they both convey a future-retro aesthetic. The former is a seething, mangled ball of electrocuted punk fury with Casablancas howling at his most guttural while The Voidz churn out a visceral take on Joy Division’s angular deep throbbing basslines merged with spray can treated beats. The latter on the other hand is a robotic march akin to Daft Punk powering down after a hard night tinkering in their subterranean lab. Beats hiss and whirr with a sinister malice making for a strangely eerie introductory moment for ‘Tyranny’. In a cinematic sense, it’s a bracing opening credits – you can picture a skyline of faded neon, as smoke bellows from manhole covers while the rain falls on an overcrowded street of good-for-nothing vagabonds. Perhaps JC and The Voidz travelled through time after all…
It’s evident with ‘Tyranny’ that there’s a sense of freedom to how JC has been working with his new gang of chancers. A clutch of tracks push towards the ten minute mark; gone are the days of whip cracking 3 minute pop nuggets. ‘Human Sadness’ can only be described as an odyssey, celestial in parts before dissolving into a rabble of twisted noise akin to a lawnmower slicing through live power cables. Throughout ‘Tyranny’ JC is pretty indecipherable but ‘Human Sadness’ delves into his vulnerable side, which has the lead man declaring “I just want to say it’s all my fault” before announcing in agonised tones “He’s ok”. ‘Johan Von Bronx’ is another protracted glimmer at the heart of ‘Tyranny’s motherboard – although this ditty rambles on for a tad too long. Post punk hi-hat’s flicker as iron girders are distorted over air raid sirens, simultaneously JC slurs and moans seemingly unaware of the urban scree unfolding around him. Tangents are another key factor, with the band reeling off in different directions before regrouping to power a song to its next twist or turn. The album as a whole is typified by ‘Dare I Care’ in two distinct ways. One; sonically, JC and The Voidz managed to bring ‘Rock The Casbah’ era The Clash along with them for their jaunt into the future thanks to the track’s smoky Eastern vibes and shoulder shuffling beats. Two; JC quite plainly murmurs “I don’t care anymore” – ‘Tyranny’ is all the better now that Casablancas has found the sound and the freedom he’s wanted for the past 13 years.
Any dystopian view of the future or in this case, the futures past, comes with an aggressive bent and this is reflected in ‘Tyranny’s visceral assault. ‘Where No Eagles Fly’ kicks off a bar fight with a dose of cyber punk, ‘Business Dog’ takes the fight to the streets armed to the teeth with broken bottles and sawn off pool cues and ‘M.utally A.ssured D.estruction’ isn’t the most guttural of tracks but you wouldn’t want to spill its drink. Equally, the drum beat alone sounds like a platoon of tanks running over The Tinman from The Wizard of Oz.
‘Tyranny’ counts a track amongst its listing known as ‘Nintendo Blood’ - we’re talking the original NES here, none of this Wii crap, not even Gamecube - and with this simple nod to the 80s by the way of WSJ’s vision of a future of space planes and the like, you understand that JC and his pals have constructed an album of pure retro-futuristic splendour that’s a bit bonkers and sometimes sounds plain shit but fucking great shit. Somehow The Voidz and their leader have developed a sound that takes a cheap 80s sonic template but has given it depth and substance. That’s some mean feat.
Suffice to say, we’ve surrendered to JC and The Voidz’s tyrannical ways.