Julian Casablancas has a set goal for The Voidz’s sophomore record, ‘Virtue’, “we want to get to the mainstream to put music there that matters.” Quite the call to arms. It would appear The Voidz are a fully- fledged band now, as opposed to ‘Julian Casablancas and The Voidz’ which was the moniker hung on JC’s second non-Strokes record, ‘Tyranny’, and follow-up to his debut solo outing ‘Phrazes For The Young’. At the turn of the 21 st Century Casablancas and The Strokes did exactly what he’s set out for ‘Virtue’ – they found themselves in the mainstream with a retro guitar sound that captured the hearts and ears of millions; it seems like a mean feat for lightning to strike twice given the current musical climate and ‘Virtue’s big mixed bag of styles; for the casual music fan, it’ll quite frankly confuse the hell out them but you can’t blame Casablancas for giving it ago.
A clear and direct jab at overblown popularism presents itself during ‘Permanent High School’ through the strange atmospherics and surf guitar twangs, the lead Voidz man can be heard stating “just because something’s popular doesn’t mean it’s good” in his trademark nonchalant drawl. It’s here where The Voidz take the most blatant swipe at the mainstream. Elsewhere, sonically a more accessible, palatable rock sound manifests via ‘Lazy Boy’s swooning pop sensibility with Casablancas adopting a soulful croon that touches on
R‘n’B. Then there’s the fairly unremarkable opening track ‘Leave It In My Dreams’ that floats along on a wistful dose of summery guitar – although it’s a mediocre moment to open the album on, it’s undeniably pop.
To infiltrate the masses, you need to cater for all tastes and mostly ‘Virtue’ ticks those boxes, as it harnesses that peculiar future-retro sound Casablancas has been expanding on for years now with a dash of feral punk noise and eccentric forays into electronica. At its most caustic ‘Virtue’ thrives; there’s ‘Pyramid of Bones’s dirty riff-off and strutting beat that has The Voidz’s frontman mumbling “I’m a devil/I’m a villain”. ‘Black Hole’ is a hardcore track but turned inside out and plunged underwater with weird percussion noises circling and gnawing guitars as Casablancas rambles indiscernibly. Raw, rampant and out of control, just what you want from a song indebted to punk. The hardcore punk assault is ploughed further with ‘We’re Where We Were’s use of chaotic percussion and rusty, razor like guitar. Aside from channelling an acerbic punk aesthetic, there’s ‘QYURRYUS’s disorienting melee of noise that warps and womps as if Daft Punk have fallen into a jacuzzi, while ‘ALienNNatioN’ adopts a dub skank and dancey percussion-led funky rhythms envelope ‘All Wordz Are Made’.
The future beamed in from 1970 springs to mind during ‘My Friend The Walls’, its many twists and turns chuck up quirky space noises, auto-tuned vocals, chiming guitar tones and you’ve got an image of tinfoil adorned astronauts and a retro sonic vision of what the future is. Strip away all the layers of jarring sounds and abrasive nuances, and you’ve got ‘Think Before You Drink’ a solitary acoustic number dedicated to the perils of growing up, from how you’re a protected innocent child to an adult thrown into the world, only to realise it’s an unforgiving place where war, famine and corruption are rife.
At 15 tracks long and pushing almost an hour in length, ‘Virtue’ is an indulgent effort by The Voidz but when
you’ve got as many ideas as JC and the gang – you can’t blame them for having their cake and eating it.
Words and Thoughts by Adam Williams