The follow-up to Tyranny is as eclectic as ever, but shows The Voidz attempting to appeal to a more mainstream audience. Where ten-minute experimental rockers were before, slick synths and frontman Julian Casablancas’s crooning now slip through the cracks in the chaos. Virtue is The Voidz’s most diverse offering yet, with opening track Leave It In My Dreams being reminiscent of The Strokes, while the following track QYURRYUS is a mish-mash of vocoders and stuttering, crunchy guitars. Virtue can not only be viewed as a sequel to Tyranny, but to The Strokes’s First Impressions of the Earth, arguably the last decent Strokes record, running with its apocalyptic feel.
The fifteen-track, hour-long running time may be off-putting to many, but the range of sounds on Virtue maintains its ability to interest and surprise. The Strokes-y Leave It In My Dreams and Lazy Boy are highlights, showing The Voidz’s talent for appealing pop-rock songs, while Wink tries its best to divert from that sound. Initially played on a Brazilian talk show, the studio version of Wink subverts its summer jam style for overblown percussion and dreamy guitars. Synths adorn other areas of the record, ranging from the funk of ALieNNatioN to the more subdued Pointlessness. Though Julian’s voice is distorted and played with, to the point of sounding lo-fi, the production on the album remains immaculate.
Pyramid of Bones is a highlight, drawing heavily from blues, while occasionally dipping into thrash metal. Contrastingly, the mid-album Think Before You Drink, is a lo-fi acoustic track where Julian attempts to empower society. Though the second half of the record has its low points, namely Black Hole and We’re Where We Were, it also has some of the album’s peaks. The mellow chorus of Lazy Boy calls back to The Strokes’s Under Control and the R&B-influenced Pink Ocean with Julian’s falsetto could be passed off as a futuristic, dystopian take on a Michael Jackson song.
Like Tyranny, Virtue remains a political comment with a pessimistic outlook on the world, but Julian’s lyrics are often obscured. His vocals are merely another instrument in The Voidz’s arsenal. Having changed their name from Julian Casablancas + The Voidz to simply The Voidz, it’s clear that each member of the band is playing a more significant role – no longer are they Julian’s backing band, but they’re responsible for crafting all the weird and wonderful noises that litter the record. It is a testament to them that by not playing music’s rulebook, they can pull off a sound that is identifiable, catchy and interesting.
Virtue is an album that shocks and entertains, yet its longevity can be questioned. Single Leave It In My Dreams is still a mainstay in indie playlists, and QYURRYUS is a grower, solidified by its performance on James Corden’s Late Late Show, yet the chaotic nature of the album encourages skipping the weaker tracks. Nonetheless, Virtue is Julian Casablancas breaking free from the legacy of one of New York’s greatest rock bands, and solidifying his place as one of rock’s most creative singers.