Illustration by Nisala Saheed

Julian Casablancas Unleashed

The Voidz — Virtue Album Review

Apr 28, 2018

Until its release last month, The Voidz’s Virtue was probably my most anticipated album of 2018. Now it is my early contender for album of the year.
The Voidz is Julian Casablancas’ latest venture, and this record is some of the best music he has produced in a long time. It is as if the artist has finally been able to cast off the shackles of expectations that have plagued him since The Strokes rose to worldwide fame. Julian has never cared about being a rockstar, even though everything he does makes him appear to be one. He just wanted to create music that pushed the boundaries the genre laid out for him. It was certainly a surprise that after releasing two of the best rock albums of this century, Is This It and Room On Fire, the band entered a period of replication and decline. Even Julian admitted as much in a recent interview with Vulture. After signing with a bigger label, creativity was put on hold and the goal was to reproduce the formula that was commercially so successful last time around. With this new platform, Julian is finally making music for the right reasons again.
The band’s debut album, Tyranny, indicates what Julian is trying to achieve. The highly experimental project did not gather too much traction due to its heavy themes and complex composition; however, I found it truly fascinating. I highly recommend listening to the 11 minute musical exploration Human Sadness from that project. It is one of the most aptly named tracks and remains a melancholic masterpiece of low-fi, noise-infused experimental rock. However, it turns out this was only the beginning.
Now, on their second album, Virtue, Julian is finally unleashing a psychedelic, eccentric, off the wall project that absolutely shatters all expectations.
It is difficult to summarize this record because of the diversity represented by the project. The opener, Leave It in My Dreams, is Julian at his best. His delivery is deeply emotional and melancholic, drawing on elements from the early Strokes days. Yet, this rather accessible psychedelic indie rock is followed by QYURRYUS. There are honestly no words to describe this absolutely unparalleled track, but the authors themselves described it as “Cyber Arabic Prison Jazz,” so I will leave it at that.
Then there is the track Pyramid of Bones which suddenly comes in with heavy guitars and aggressive vocals. A totally unexpected detour from the earlier tracks that somehow complements the quirkiness that precedes it. The inclusion of this track perfectly exemplifies the juxtaposition of themes and genres that Julian is creating within this single project. Similarly, the happy, sing along tune of All Wordz Are Made Up has its total antithesis in the album closer Pointlessness. With its somber production, the track makes you question the point of the album, life and everything in between.
Finally, I need to mention the track Permanent High School. This track is the best track on the album. A direct reflection of Julian’s mind, Permanent High School illustrates his vision of the world we live in. Drawing a parallel with the adolescent life of high school, it is a complex subject that merits a longer discussion than I can afford here.
The only significant criticism I can muster concerns the second half of the album. While still featuring some interesting tracks like My Friend The Walls, there are fewer tracks that truly excite. Since the album is already a rather difficult listen, perhaps cutting some of the latter tracks would have made the overall project more accessible.
Ultimately, I highly recommend taking this journey through social misery, general skepticism and wild experimentation. There is rock. There is pop. There is fun and there is sadness. This is a hot mess in the best way possible.
Favorite Tracks: Permanent High School, All Wordz Are Made Up, Pyramid Of Bones, Leave It In My Dreams
Worst Tracks: Lazy Boy
Steffen Holter is a music columnist. Email him at
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