By Will Bateman, Music Reporter
After releasing 2001’s genre defining Is This It? with The Strokes Julian Casablancas has struggled to match its impact, and more importantly appeared to struggle with his own artistic satisfaction with their output. His first solo outing, the synth-pop heavy Phrazes for The Young seemed to be a move in the direction of creative freedom, but even then struggled with the powers that be. Expressing in hindsight a lack of gratification stating he’d wanted to do “weirder, darker stuff for years”, but he resulted in doing what he thought people would like as opposed to his own rule: “If I, in my heart, think it’s cool, that’s probably what people will like the most”.
Cue new band the Voidz, new album Tyranny, and his weirder, darker stuff under his own label, Cult Records. Their live performance instantly shares the same non-conformist, unconventional, and anarchic themes and characteristics of the album. After opening with Daft Punk collaboration ‘Instant Crush’ and with very brief moments of audience interaction from Casablancas, the Voidz swiftly move through ‘Xerox’, ‘Father Electricity’ and ‘M.utually A.ssured D.estruction’ spanning lo-fi electronica, indie, prog-rock, hip-hop and afrobeat, amidst a consistent raw, volatile distortion. Where occasionally a lack of cohesion between songs appears, it only serves the purpose of building the bands lacklustre, fiery, live unpredictability.
A breather comes briefly with the slow pulsating epic ‘Human Sadness’ before its sporadic moments of explosive pressure bubbling underneath, unable to be contained. The tempo is driven straight back up with the punk bass-line driven intro of static-filled screamer ‘Where No Eagles Fly’. Their unruly and capricious approach to genre and song structure translates to the stage with an erratic, powerful and passionate energy of what feels like only semi-controlled chaos.
Diversions from Voidz material later come with Phrazes’ ‘River of Brakelights’, and what first seems like an odd choice from their near perfect back catalogue with The Strokes, ‘Ize of the World’. The lesser known First Impressions of Earth track slips in effortlessly alongside ‘Johan von Bronx’ and ‘Crunch Punch’ with a similar self-indulgence Tyranny could be accused of, alongside an overly-dramatic chorus angrily screamed repeatedly through the distorted mic, lyrics barely audible.
‘I’ll Try Anything Once’, demo of single ‘You Only Live Once’ is a rare treat beginning the encore, with Julian taking to the stage alone backed only by a lonely synth organ. ‘Dare I Care’, concludes the night as a stamp certifying their frenzied, and uncontrollable future-rock credentials as he wails ‘I don’t care anymore’, as if it’s a statement of his current creative freedom or newly discovered comfort in a lack of yearning for critical acclaim.
It’s been on his to-do list for some time, but with full artistic control and a comfort with his band
mates, which became lacking with The Strokes (he recently stated he “feels nothing” when performing with them), Julian has successfully created his post-apocalyptic Mad Max meets Escape From New York world with no creative bounds. Whichever side of the fence you stand on his drastic new venture, Julian must be respected for taking such a leap into daring musical territory, no doubt leaving many behind.