2001’s Is This It established The Strokes as forerunning garage-rock revivalists … and victims of massive overhype. Two additional albums and a three-year hiatus followed before rumblings that material recorded this summer remained slated for release early next year. Not that the lo-fi fivesome has settled for diminished returns; guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. boasts two solo efforts, while drummer Fabrizio Moretti and bassist Nikolai Fraiture have each also launched side projects.
Making his own stab at autonomy, frontman Julian Casablancas opens his whopping eight-track LP anemically, with “Out of the Blue” kicking it off in true, jauntily affected Strokes fashion. But confessional, regret-seeped lyrics concerning hopefulness turning to sadness turning to bitterness turning to anger turning to vengeance quickly slam the Room on Fire re-entry door.
Phrazes for the Young raises the possibility that the multi-instrumentalist’s arsenal packs more than empty, scattered bottles, with sunny synths juxtaposing darker, ’80s-drenched moods and soulful asides, while keys, banjo, strings and noodling horn-fills nearly elbow aside predictable guitar distortion and retro-minded basslines.
Improbably, the urgent, looping “Getting the hang of it/Timing is everything” of highlight “River of Brakelights” even evokes images of Casablancas skittering across the street like a drunken, Lower East Side Frogger. And for the first in a long time, you might root for him to make it.