If particular albums are suited to particular audiences, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes‘ second solo project is clearly aimed at super intelligent space robots from the future.
Can us mere mortals truly begin to comprehend this intergalactic musical experiment? Goodbye traditional song structure and sayonara to conventional instrumentation, we’re blasting off to planet Casablancas without a return ticket. Not surprisingly, ‘Take Me In Your Army‘ literally feels like crash landing on another planet; it’s eerie, desolate and largely likens to reading the phone-book in a foreign language.
More assuredly, ‘Crunch Punch‘ invokes a sigh of relief in the form of an infinitely crude riff that finally casts the listener a musical rock to cling to. Yet in the same breath, the enigmatically titled ‘M.Utually A.Ssured D.Estruction‘ has no quarrels in pulling the rug from underneath us once again in this non-stop rumbling fuzz-fest.
‘Human Sadness‘ admittedly feels the most ahead of its time, likening to a futuristic Strokes track that flourishes and fades as it so desires; no longer bound by choruses, verses or traditional song structures, it has a life of its own. ‘Where No Eagles Fly‘ makes use of a similar type of repetitious riff as we experienced in ‘Crunch Punch’, with a potent chorus that sees Casablancas furiously iterate:
“Meat. Predators eat meat.”
Julian Casablancas sets phasers to stun with the bizarre ‘Father Electricity‘, a song that could comfortably soundtrack the next Donkey Kong game (if it were set in space) with its exotic yet industrial percussion. ‘Johan Von Bronx‘ progressively finds its feet after a rather sluggish awakening that finds the breakneck speed and crunching chords of ‘Business Dog‘ in hot pursuit.
As the never ending madness begins to truly challenge our attention spans, ‘Dare I Care‘ arrogantly continues the indigenous space percussion with little reservations; yet with patience, a number of transitions into an intergalactic Strokes track manifest themselves, making the entire experience patiently cathartic. The final act of ‘Tyranny’ sees Nintendo Wii menu music demonised in the form of aptly titled ‘Nintendo Blood‘. It’s shortly followed by the brash, crackling synth of ‘Off To War..‘ that draws the album to somewhat of an unexplained and anticlimactic close. So what can we take from this surreal, experimental and often confusing take on music?
In all honesty, it’s hard to even judge this album as music at all. It has an abject hatred of all traditional song instrumentation and far favours textures and colours (namely the colour black) instead. In fact, ‘Tyranny’ largely opts to make all instruments sound as little like that instrument as it possibly can. It purposefully rejects any kind of typical song structure, effectively giving the listener a compass to follow that later turns out to be a potato masher. Crucially this begs the question: If you take away all of music’s vital conventions… is it still even music anymore?
All in all, ‘Tyranny’ is an album that exists as a futuristic universe that you can escape to for an hour, not necessarily something you can simply listen to on a whim. It breaks convention more than a bearded woman winning Eurovision and for that, we salute it. But to judge an album as music, when it so consistently tries not to be, simply feels unjust. For an album that is often about as musical as an inkjet printer, we feel that only a rating as unconventional as ‘Tyranny’ itself would be appropriate. ??/10