The Voidz, led by The Strokes’ front-man Julian Casablancas, have gone through a few housekeeping changes since their debut album Tyranny. For starters, they have dropped Casablancas’ name from their moniker, probably for the intention of making it known that they are a true band, rather than just a side project. Additionally, the band has used their second album as an experimental canvas on which to paint with all types of styles. While their debut album came across as abrasive and hard to digest, Virtue brings out the best in this crew and if you can stomach the variety of approaches used on this record, it’s quite a fun and trippy ride.
The album opener, “Leave it in My Dreams,” feels like it could have easily been placed at the forefront of any of the Strokes’ records, as its hard to distinguish what is much different about this stylistic approach found here. “Qyurryus,” the second track, and first video released from the LP is filled with a whirring backing sound, programmed beats, and tribal/auto-tuned vocals from Casablancas. This track is as polarizing as any on the album, and was a curious choice for a lead single for an album filled with so many more beaming moments. For example, the heavy drudge guitars on the opening of “Pyramid of Bones” find the Voidz getting in touch with the heavier side of their Indie Rock flavor, while still taking on the schizophrenic personality of the album. The track even features a heavy metal breakdown and growl in certain key moments of the song. By the time you get through to the end of the track, you’re left with a “what did I just listen to?” expression, yet finding yourself curious enough to carry on.
“Permanent High School” returns the Voidz to their Strokes-esque sound with opening lyrics of “If I told you the truth, it would be a lie” which is a good disclaimer for the rest of the album, because as quickly as you think you have the group figured out, they turn a song on its side. Casablancas continues to croon on the chorus: “Hiding what we want to do/Smart people will learn from fools/Life is like a hurricane/Crosswords on the asteroid game/Depressed and stressed and oppressed/Lies are simple, truth complex.” The vibrant tones and unpredictability of this album is what makes it both a challenging, yet rewarding, listening experience.
The middle of the album features falsetto-chorus vocals on “One of the ones,” a disco-rocker in “All Wordz are Made Up,” a strange sounding acoustic track “Think Before You Drink” that sounds like it was recorded on a phone, rather than any type of fancy recording equipment. “Wink” again brings the audience back with another reflective set of lyrics of: “I see the writing on the wall/I was playing it too safe/Playing it too safe is dangerous” which leads us to wonder if the first half of the record was playing it safe, what could possibly be in store for the latter half of the LP?
This question is quickly answered with the spacey, “My Friend the Walls,” which leads the listener down twists and turns of unique time signature beats and a memorable chorus worthy of repeat listens. “Pink Ocean” follows this track with a synth-laden atmosphere, Julian’s classic falsetto vocals in the verses, and a simplistic beat that sounds like it could have been ripped right out of the synth-pop of the 80’s.
By this point on the record, you have seen the Voidz experiment with several different sounds and directions while not showing their hand of what is their “true north.” In reality, that is likely what the group had in mind for their “re-branded” second album. The only unfortunate point for the Voidz is they will need to decide exactly which of these colors they are painting with in the future in order to not lose the variety of audiences they may gain from this LP. There truly is something there for all types of music fans in this scattered album, but time will tell whether or not the Voidz are able to construct a cohesive statement on their third album, or if they will continue to lead us further down the rabbit hole.