Julian Casablancas | Phrazes for the Young

RCA (2009)
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  November 9, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars

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Someday, a great rock film will be made. The opening shot is of a wasted rock star, bejeweled and clad in the finest leather, with white panthers circling the living room of his Parthenon-esque manse as he hits PLAY on a comically large reel-to-reel. As the tape spins, the camera pulls back down endless hallways symmetrically lined with Greek statues, disappearing into a lux interior horizon.

Echoing endlessly as it does so is a plaintive voice bathed in swirlingly synthetic keyboards; it’s soothing-yet-disturbing, eventually arcing into labyrinthine fugues at once Baroque and modern. The rhythms are jittery and endless, locking in with the synthesizers in an economical package of sound that snugly fits with the warm croon of the vocals while at the same time making lyrical inquiries pointless.

The rest of the film will be a flashback to the story of this rock star, and his name will be Julian Casablancas: his childhood of opulence and jet-setting wealth, boarding schools and modeling agencies; his adolescence of garage rock, instant fame, and inebriated abandon. But all of that stuff will be of little consequence. At the end, after his inevitable untimely death, all anyone will care about will be the stately grandeur of the opening (and closing) music coupled with the star’s eternal blank stare: unknowable, unfathomable, and ultimately tragic. We’ll have to wait for the movie; fortunately the soundtrack is already here.

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