Rightly or wrongly, The Voidz second album ‘Virtue’ is going to be compared to Albert Hammond Jr’s recently released ‘Francis Trouble’. Both of The Strokes men have released albums within months of each other which also happen to contain some of the best songs either has written and would easily fit into a new album that fans of the legendary New York five piece are begging for.
Opening tracks ‘Leave It In My Dreams’ and ‘QYURRYUS’ were significant singles for the album, with live versions also being performed on US late night talk shows. The former is signature Casablancas, if someone played it to you I’d struggle to tell you which of his bands it was from. The song is slightly more synth heavy than anything The Strokes have released and the distortion on Casablancas vocals is a tiny bit softer, but the tune is catchy and the lack of vocoder, something Casablancas seems to be obsessed with, means this song could have come out in 2005. ‘QYURRYUS’ is led by an almost industrial drum beat and pulsing synth combo with awkward beeps on top. Casablancas vocals are haunting in the verses and the vocoder inevitably kicks in towards the end in an unnecessary fashion while Casablancas whine ‘I want my mom, I want my home’.
‘Pyramid of Bones’ chops between heavy, distorted guitars and 80’s fuelled synths that make you want to sleep on a cloud with transitions that just about work. ‘Permanent High School’ and ‘ALieNNationN’ are bland are far too long, which considering ‘Virtue’ runs to nearly 54 minutes there is no excuse for. Just cut them. ‘One For The Ones’ deserves to be on the cut pile too.
In fact, I’d say all tracks until ‘Pink Ocean’ shouldn’t have made the record. ‘All Wordz Are Made Up’ is a desperate grab at being edgy and experimental and the acoustic ‘Think Before You Drink’ reminds you why Casablancas shrouds his vocals with vocal effects and large instrumentation. ‘Wink’ sounds promising in the intro but then the song kicks in with the now familiar disappointment. Clearly, The Voidz are trying to create an experimental sound. 2013’s debut ‘Tyranny’ pretty much achieved this, the mammoth ‘Human Sadness’ was one of my songs of the year and really hit the mark, but their attempt move with the times has largely failed.
‘Pink Ocean’ is only really interesting for its juxtaposing instrumentation. A dreamy, string based synth sits over a menacing bassline while Casablancas howls inaudibly through a vocoder once more. Casablancas said before the record came out that it was political but it’s virtually impossible to hear the lyrics he is singing and when you can they’re often about something comical like wanting his mum. That line may make sense within the rest of ‘QYURRYUS’ but if you can’t understand the rest of the lyrics then it’s inconsequential.
‘Black Hole’ is as awful and faux edgy as the title suggests. The Voidz seem to have just put every part they were fond of but couldn’t fit into another song together. The result is a messy, hard to listen to track that could easily have been created by a load of teenagers pissing about in a music lesson and I think I’d rather listen to that. Thankfully, it’s one of few tracks that is under 4 minutes long. ‘Lazy Boy’ is another attempt to be a bit more stripped back and emotional but The Voidz can’t let this be and interject with unnecessary stabs every now and then. I’d say ‘Lazy Boy’ is The Voidz doing a laid back Peace style track but falling at every single hurdle.
‘We’re Where We Were’ is another poor effort and album closer ‘Pointlessness’ actually starts off surprisingly good. Casablancas howls over an organ in a style that brings to mind a walk through a foggy cemetry. A complex electroic drumbeat joins in and enhances the track until everything drops out and heavenly synths kick in. Synths that would be better on their own track. Credit where its due they do slowly transition into being haunting once more but the intro to the track was more effective. The beginning of ‘Pointlessness’ shows off how Casablancas should do emotion but The Voidz over complicate it and that’s the issue with this album. There are lots of good little ideas in ‘Virtue’ but they are overcomplicated and over saturated.
I said at the start the ‘Virtue’ will inevitably be compared to ‘Francis Trouble’ and unfortunately it comes out of that comparison looking awful. ‘Francis Trouble’ is filled with great guitar pop tunes with an interesting twist to them whereas ‘Virtue’ is all twist no substance. ‘Virtue’ is far too long, as are most of its tracks, and The Voidz would’ve been far better off releasing ‘Leave It In My Dreams’ and ‘QYURRYUS’ along with another track or two as an EP. ‘Virtue’ is a huge disappointment.