Titling his solo debut after an Oscar Wilde essay meant that Julian Casablancas had to hold the words to his songs up to a higher standard.
“I had the name so I knew the lyrics had to be pretty good,” he says of “Phrazes For the Young,” which he released in November. “It was kind of what I wanted to call the last Strokes record. It was one of the names in the running, but it didn’t feel like [that album] was saying that.”
The words in “Phrazes” are more philosophical than the Strokes’ “work hard and say it’s easy” aesthetic, the message from its eight songs coming across like a cross between a fortune cookie and a sociology lesson. “Being nice is only hard when others aren’t,” he sings in “4 Chords of the Apocalypse.” In “Out of the Blue” Casablancas sings, “when roles are reversed, opinions are too.”
But the line that may be the most telling comes from “11th Dimension.” Like the music on much of the album — and unlike any of the Strokes’ output — there are bouncy ‘80s synthesizers and electronic drums designed for the dancefloor. Against these celebratory sounds that have more than a hint of New Order, he sings, “you are looking for your own voice but in others.”
“I just think that’s kind of the thing because that song is about the subconscious,” Casablancas says. “When you hear something that rings true in your mind, it’s almost like something that you deeply knew but didn’t know you knew until you heard someone else say it. That’s what art is, helping you pull things out of your subconscious.”
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