phrazes

Phrazes for the Young, the solo debut from Strokes frontman Julian Casablacas, is a busy, messy marvel. Its principle vibe, a synthy, complicated rush of blood to the head, must be what life as a cog or lever in a downtown Manhattan pinball machine sounds like. Only, the machine’s music isn’t a rock opera, and Casablancas is nowhere near The Who, but what he has created here is a startling record of a sober man’s thoughts as he walks among us, always watching, always thinking. Over the course of eight songs, Casablancas’ infamous sardonic wit shines through as he delivers some of his finest, most impassioned vocal performances and lyrics to date with “Out of the Blue,” irresistible, speed-skate dream come true lead single “11th Dimension” and “Glass.” The defining moment of the record, of course, is “Ludlow St.,” and how could it not be; one of the most enigmatic characters to rise from the decade’s indie scene lets loose on the gentrification and intoxication of his beloved stomping grounds. The country-tinged ballad is a welcome commentary from a man we’ve not seen nearly enough of in recent years, save for that Converse advertisement plastered all over the city’s subway stations. Phrazes, as patience-trying as it can be, is no ill-conceived vanity project, and Daddy don’t need to pay for this crashed car. Perhaps next time, we’ll see less Casio and more guitar gusto from Jules; but at least he’s looking forward with a sense of clarity and urgency. Hopefully the Strokes are too. (RCA) –Carrie Alison