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Is This It , 7/10
Room On Fire (2003), 5/10
First Impressions of Earth (2006), 4.5/10
Julian Casablancas: Phrazes For The Young (2009), 6/10
Angles (2011), 4.5/10
Julian Casablancas: Tyranny (2014), 5/10

(Clicka qui per la versione Italiana)

The Strokes are a band from New York, led by singer Julian Casablancas and guitarist Albert Hammond, that became a sensation in Britain with the single Hard To Explain/ New York City Cops, the EP The Modern Age (Rough Trade, 2000), and the album Is This It (RCA, 2001). While a few songs of the album try to rock out (The Modern Age, which is a photocopy of Velvet Underground and Modern Lovers, Barely Legal, Hard To Explain, the blues-rock rigmarole New York City Cops), the majority dwells comfortably in a genre of pop balladry that borrows riffs and rhythms from the classics while relying on very basic melodies: Is This It, that apes the atonal lo-fi pop of the 1980s; the bouncy and spirited Someday; the ska with progression a` la Cheap Trick of Last Nite.
Nick Valensi's and Albert Hammond's predictable guitar workouts and a formidable rhythm section (bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fabrizio Moretti) provide the ideal balance between dejavu and fashionable.

Despite the hype that surrounded its release, Room On Fire (Rough Trade, 2003) was only a timid, derivative collection of average-sounding songs. The effervescent Between Love and Hate and 12.51 picked up where their singles left off, and You Talk Way Too Much continued the Strokes' obsession for redeeming the Velvet Underground. Embarrassing ventures into genres such as reggae (Automatic Stop), funk (What Ever Happened), ska (Automatic Stop), soul (Under Control), attest to the bands' limited skills, despite Nick Valensi's guitar showcase in Reptilia. The End Has No End, which "boldly" crosses Michael Jackson's Billie Jean and Guns N' Roses' Sweet Child O Mine, says it all. This is mostly generic rock'n'roll (Meet Me In The Bathroom, The Way It Is, I Can't Win). There is virtually no musical depth in this album. This is as challenging as Britney Spears.

There are few moments on First Impressions of Earth (RCA, 2006) that recall the past: Juicebox and You Only Live Once being the best ones. But Electricityscape, Heart In A Cage and the naked ballad Ask Me Anything add arena-rock or MOR touches that are reminiscent of U2 and other moronic-pop acts. The second half of the album is haphazard at best, relying too much on mediocre lyrics. The band, for whom originality was never an asset, has lost quite a bit of its verve. Less filler (this album is almost twice longer than their debut) might have justified the effort to smooth out and calm down the music, but so much filler makes one think that maybe writing/singing filler is precisely what the Strokes' second phase is going to be about.

Julian Casablancas debuted solo with Phrazes For The Young (RCA, 2009), a collection of eight songs that embraced melody and electronics. Except for Out of the Blue, that works as a feeble link with the Strokes, the other seven complex songs rely on mildly futuristic soundscapes paced by drum-machines in a broad range of styles and methods, notably River of Brakelights, Ludlow St, 11th Dimension, Tourist.

The Strokes made a truly collective album, not driven by Casablanca's lyrics and melodies but first composed by the band and then turned into songs by the frontman, with Angles (2011). The album is split between familiar Strokes catchy ditties like Gratisfaction (reminiscent of Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back in Town), Under Cover of Darkness (that sounds like a lost singalong of British pub-rock of the late 1970s) and Taken For a Fool (that could have been an Elvis Costello hit); and "experiments" that mostly fail miserably like the synth-pop of Games, the U2-fied reggae of Machu Picchu, the tedious ballad Life is Simple in the Moonlight, and Two Kinds of Happiness (with staccato electronic keyboards a` la Cars' You Might Think I'm Crazy).

Julian Casablancas and the Voidz released Tyranny (Cult, 2014). The 11-minute Human Sadness sounds like it was recorded by a group of kindergarten children studio armed with a sampling device: just about everything happens. Except that Casablanca keeps singing on the underveloped mush, trying to provide a structure and a meaning, and his operatic excesses sound particularly funny, occasionally bordering on Queen-ish parody. It is particularly a bad idea when he tries to be too melodic, like the guitar refrain of Johan Von Bronx, which truly sounds like a musichall skit. In cases of extreme zaniness, the sloppiness becomes an asset: the seven-minute Father Electricity actually benefits from the way the orgiastic Caribbean polyrhythms are completely wasted against a pathetic litany and a mournful organ. Within such a collage of dislocated genres, a regular Strokes-ian rocker like Business Dog or Where No Eagles Fly sounds like a mistake. "Eccentric" does not even come close. For the record, some of the songs are anti-war and anti-capitalist propaganda.

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