Hot Disc: Julian Casablancas, Phrazes for the Young

Do call it a comeback: Phrazes for the Young (Sony) is the first solo album from Strokes leading man Casablancas, but it’s also a triumphal, uphill march right back into our hearts. He might’ve won us over too early, too easily, this care-nothing LES lothario with his band of ruffians. New Wave or no wave, Is This It stands as one of the best-loved albums in New York rock history. But then the Strokes made two more, too soon, playing fast and loose with our affections. Julian got wasted and wrote shite lyrics. The third and last-for-now Strokes album was a whiskey-breathed yawn. We still loved him, but we had to let him go.

Now he’s back. Clean(er) and grown-up (sort of), over being “over it. ” Phrazes is a trip—fantastic and light, surprisingly so—through the same old Strokes influences (Lou Reed, Jim Morrison). But it’s done sincerely now. Lead single “11th Dimension” is a blast of mellotron, tribal drums, and guitar wail swerving into synth, all choreographed by Casablancas himself. “River of Brakelights” is glam and bassy, tilting madly toward prog, and maybe the best track on the album. A too-cool experiment, until he croons, almost like he cares: “Finding the dreams you left behind—to do / Waving goodbye, your young heart cries for you.” Then, pleading, “Homeward bound, where did you go? You were my ride home.” Oh, Julian. Did you have to ask? We’ve already taken you back.

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