Grantland logo

Five Thoughts on Julian Casablancas’s New 11-Minute Experimental Track, ‘Human Sadness’

This is Julian’s “Only in Dreams.” It might be better than “Only in Dreams”? This coming from someone who was never that big of an “Only in Dreams” fan.

1. I’ve listened to and loved a lot of weird music in my life, but whenever something is billed as an “experimental track,” for some reason I always assume it’s going to sound like “Revolution 9,” which usually means I wind up caught off guard by anything that sounds even remotely like a song.

2. This is definitely a song. This is Julian Casablancas’s “Only in Dreams.” It might be better than “Only in Dreams”? This coming from someone who was never that big of an “Only in Dreams” fan.

3. On our most recent podcast, Molly Lambert and I talked a little about this current wave of Strokes nostalgia sweeping the #teens of North America, and how, observationally at least, it’s not actually nostalgia because it doesn’t seem to apply to people who were actually paying attention when Is This It was released. I do feel something like nostalgia for Casablancas’s voice, though, possibly because I’ve stayed pretty ignorant of/apathetic about most of the band’s output from 2004 onward. The period when that voice was a major part of my musical landscape is pretty relegated to a specific time. Hearing it now, especially when buried under layers of production or processed through a vocoder, only intensifies that nostalgia.

4. There’s a fine line between catharsis and indulgence when it comes to the 11-minute “experimental” song. I was all ready to make a bunch of prog-Strokes jokes before pressing play on”Human Sadness,” but the track doesn’t remotely support them. The solo-ing never feels excessive; all the extended tortured vocals are mostly unintelligible and in the background. The main star is noise and distortion, and for some reason that always endears me to musicians I have otherwise felt a remove from.

5. This is the first track released off Tyranny, Casablancas’s upcoming album with the Voidz, due out September 23. If you preorder the album, you can also get it in digital form, embedded inside a mini–Bic lighter case. I think this means the format wars are officially over.