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Julian Casablancas: New Band, New Album, No Compromises

Julian Casablancas + The Voidz's new album is called Tyranny. (Courtesy of the artist)

Julian Casablancas has seen highs and lows in his career. Is This It, his 2001 debut with his band The Strokes, is considered one of the great rock albums of that decade. Full of pop melodies and rock-star snarl, it launched a generation of bands chasing a similar sound.

Subsequent Strokes albums did not connect on the same level. A more commercial solo effort, Phrazes for the Young, did even worse. So on his latest album, Casablancas and his new band, The Voidz, decided to do things differently.

"I really made sure this time that I didn't compromise," Casablancas says. "I think I got a little lost, in general, creatively, in terms of getting caught up in what I thought people would want to hear."

The album is called Tyranny. It's fair to call it his most adventurous record yet, but Strokes fans beware: Whereas that band was all studied cool, this album is all sharp elbows.

"I've been wanting to do kind of weirder, darker stuff for a long time," the musician says. "It just kind of came together — 'cause you've gotta work at being able to deliver it in a way that sounds simple and catchy."

Many of the songs take their sonic cues, as well as their politics, from 1980s hardcore and underground world music. Casablancas says that while he hopes people enjoy the new songs, he also wanted to say something about the rich and powerful and the way he believes they can undermine democracy in places around the world.

Critics have had mixed reactions to Tyranny. Some say Casablancas seems to be on to a good thing after drifting somewhat over the years. Others have been unsparing in their dislike of the new sound, which suggests another form of tyranny Casablancas may have had in mind: that of critics and fans who may not want to see a favorite artist change.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The musician Julian Casablancas has seen highs and lows in his career. His debut in 2001 with his band The Strokes is considered one of the great rock albums of that decade.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE STROKES SONG)

JULIAN CASABLANCAS: (Singing) I didn't take no shortcuts. I spent that money that I saved up.

CORNISH: "Is This It," with its pop melodies and rock star snarl evoked New York cool and like The Velvet Underground, launched a generation of bands chasing a similar sound. But subsequent albums did not sell as well and a more commercial effort, his solo CD, did even worse. So on his latest album, Casablancas and his new band, The Voidz, did things differently.

CASABLANCAS: I really made sure this time that I didn't compromise. I think I got a little lost in general, creatively, in terms of getting caught up in what I thought people would want to hear.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE VOIDZ SONG)

CORNISH: The album is called "Tyranny" and critics say it's his most adventurous record yet. But Strokes fans beware; where as, that band was all studied cool, this album is all sharp elbows.

CASABLANCAS: I've been wanting to do kind of weirder, darker stuff for a long time. But it just kind of came together finally because you got to work at being able to deliver it in a way that sounds simple and catchy.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE VOIDZ SONG)

CASABLANCAS: (Singing) I don't care anymore.

CORNISH: So - dark and weird, but catchy. Many of the songs take their cue and their politics from '80s hardcore and underground world music.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE VOIDZ SONG)

CORNISH: Casablancas says on one level, he wants people to enjoy the music, but he also wanted to say something about the rich and powerful and the way he believes they can undermine democracy in places around the world. Although at times, the message can get lost in the mix.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE VOIDZ SONG)

CORNISH: Critics have had mixed reactions to the album. Some say Casablancas seems to be onto a good thing after drifting somewhat over the years. Others though have been unsparing in their dislike of the new sound, which suggests another form of tyranny custom Casablancas may have had in mind - that of critics and fans who may not want to see a favorite artist change.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE VOIDZ SONG)

CORNISH: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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