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Album Review

Stroke of brilliance from Casablancas

November 2, 2009

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Indie Rock Julian Casablancas Phrazes for the Young
Cult/RCA
ESSENTIAL “Out of the Blue’’

One by one, the members of the Strokes - the nattily attired New York quintet once trumpeted as indie rock’s saving grace - have been moonlighting with solo records and side projects. Guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. led the charge with 2007’s underrated “Yours to Keep,’’ followed by drummer Fab Moretti’s indie-pop trio Little Joy, and bassist Nikolai Fraiture’s detour into forlorn folk as Nickel Eye.

Now the spotlight fixes back on Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas, whose new “Phrazes for the Young’’ one-ups his bandmates by being, hands down, the most stridently infectious solo debut of all. It’s the sound of a guy with something to prove, even if he doesn’t exactly address, or quell, speculation that the Strokes’ halcyon days are behind them.

The Strokes haven’t released an album since 2006’s tepidly received “First Impressions of Earth,’’ but “Phrazes for the Young’’ isn’t Casablancas’s commentary on the situation, despite thinly veiled lyrics about “all the vultures, bootleggers at the door waiting.’’ Instead, the album suggests he’s more than just the group’s photogenic frontman forever clad in a leather jacket. He wrote all of these songs and played all of the instruments.

There are thrilling flights of fancy here - the heady sugar rush of “Out of the Blue,’’ the snap and crackle of synth-pop jam “11th Dimension’’ - but there’s a tiny quibble. “Phrazes for the Young’’ blusters its way through eight songs full of killer hooks and choruses, and then? Well, it’s gone, as fun and fleeting as a carnival ride that’s just a memory a few hours later. (Out tomorrow) JAMES REED