Upon the release of their eccentric new album Virtue, The Voidz are heading out on an international tour. One of their stops is The Ritz in Manchester, where you can get up close and personal with Julian Casablancas and co’s unique brand of experimental rock.
The Strokes were the undisputed darlings of the early-noughties indie rock world. Is This It, their debut album, was a lo-fi masterpiece in which pristine songwriting was coupled with artful arrogance. Room On Fire, which essentially followed the same formula, was also pretty irresistible. From that point on, though, the band’s mojo slowly deflated, and they released a string of albums which fell increasingly short of the dangerously high bar that they originally set.
From 2006 onwards, nearly all of the band members started side-projects. Albert Hammond Jr’s released solo record Yours To Keep, and Julian Casablancas had his Phrazes For The Young. Whilst Jules’ solo record does have its sweet spots, none of these side-projects particularly tore it up. That is, until 2013, when The Voidz came along.
A motley crew of touring musicians/LA pals, Julian Casablancas+The Voidz shot out of the blocks with their outlandish debut album Tyranny. A large (and necessary) sidestep away from The Strokes, this was an explosive, sinister and abrasive synth punk album. Its songs were comprised of dense layers of distorted synths and guitars, with the leather-clad veteran delivering perhaps the most hard-hitting vocals of his career.
If Is This It was characterised by concision, then… well… Tyranny‘s the opposite. The tunes here are unwieldy – unapologetically eccentric and sometimes difficult to digest. But this is exciting! I mean, although The Strokes had a lo-fi aesthetic, really the ‘chaos’ was under total control. With The Voidz, though, Jules seems to have genuinely loosened the reigns, and, as a result, this project has spawned the freshest music we’ve heard from him in years! ‘Human Sadness’ is the obvious highlight – a multifaceted and apocalyptic odyssey which builds towards a surprisingly catchy and anthemic end. The heavier ‘Crunch Punch’ and ‘Where No Eagles Fly’ offer their own thrills.
Dropping the main man’s name from the title, The Voidz released their follow-up album Virtue last March. A blend of the past, present and future, this album features a violent cacophony of genres. Whilst opener ‘Leave It In My Dreams’ is (sort of weirdly) Strokesy, it’s followed by the electro-punk track QYURRYUS, and then the metal-esque ‘Pyramid of Bones’, by which point we realise that we’re in deeply weird territory. Oh, and by the way, that last song features a genuine death metal growl. Seriously.
That’s not to say that this stuff isn’t catchy, though. ‘Pyramid of Bones’, for example, boasts a sharp, Ozzy Osbourne-inflected chorus and rage-filled guitar hooks that stick with you. Lyrics wise, Jules vocalises his distrust of the modern world in these songs (no surprises there), but with a weightier emphasis on politics than we’re used to. He has no answers (why should he, I suppose), but rather shakes his ring-bejewelled fist at disinformation and propaganda. It might sound tired if it weren’t set against this fearless music.
More genres. More weirdness. More rage. That seems to be the mantra that The Voidz held going into this record, and the result is pretty thrilling. Who knows how this vaguely disturbing record will translate to the stage, though. I, for one, am excited to find out. If you are too, then there are still some tickets left for their gig at The Ritz in Manchester. Dress code: studded leather vest.