Top 50 of 2009 :: Number One : Julian Casablancas - "Glass"

Julian Casablancas allegedly saved rock and roll in 2001. The Strokes hit New York, stummbled around on Ludlow, destroyed at the Mercury Lounge and rebuilt the downtown scene, or at least found an image of it that we liked to believe existed. By 2009, Casablancas wasn't interested in saving anyone, although, he was positioned uniquely to reflect on a decade he helped build. In this spirit, he released a solo record and this time, told us things we didn't want to hear.

If Is This It was the thesis statement for a whole generation of kids who didn't have one, Phrazes For The Young was the unfortunate afterglow of a generation that mindlessly accepted those truths. Casablancas no longer tried to define an epoch, he was almost beyond it and us. This go-round, the savior wouldn't have a message of hope and salvation; more likely a message of apocalypse and emotional superficiality. You aren't a generation of kids in skinny jeans. You are simply overprotected. You are behind bulletproof glass.

On Phrazes, Casablancas waited until track eight to unleash "Glass," the crashing and seminal statement of purpose. Sonically, it reflects the classic and futuristic influences that run rife through the record, its art, and its artist. It is a wheeling, synthesized meditation until it explodes into an arena-chorus. Casablancas' vocals soar behind us, as the biggest chord progression of 2009 pounds underneath. The bridge proves to be a massive, post-metal, baroque breakdown. Eventually, using a guitar in harpsichord fashion, we find the third verse. The final two trips through the chorus are the most moving, with Casablancas finally settling into mournful, "ohs." The track slips away from us and we wait for something else. There is no resolution, just this.

The message is simple: You can't be tough and delicate. You can't be protected and experienced. As a generation, if you've been cushioned from everything, you can't claim a wealth of pain and depth. If you've been kept behind bulletproof glass, you are little more than a display item. Casablancas encourages us, "pretty baby," to get behind our protective covering, "where it's safe." Later, he soars, "Bulletproof glass, you won't have any troubles now/But who knows?" The impact is clear. In our effort to protect ourselves, we have successfully cut ourselves off. We travel from place to place in our protective bubbles, occasionally bumping into one another, with little consequence or responsibility. I can't be hurt. You can't be hurt. We can't feel anything. We are all alone in our personal snow globes.

He closes with the following reflection: "Dominance and loyalty/Romance and security/Just stay behind bulletproof glass." We can't be dominant and completely loyal. We cannot have romance and complete security. These are the facts and Casablancas proposes no solution. After all, we've been stuck behind these walls for too long. Not only have we kept others out, we might have locked ourselves in. This time, we're not looking for a band to define us. We're being encouraged to define ourselves. Our greatest risk, to encounter risk for the first time. But who knows.


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BradIsMyHomeboy said...

a fitting eulogy of the "aughts," by both musician and writer. well done, brother.

noah said...

wonderfully put, buddy.

32feet said...

thanks guys. it could be that i was re-reading Choke and your review from SF and thinking about unlikely saviors and saviors who might rather not be. i think julian qualifies as both.

srnewsad said...

I wanted to say that I JUST ran across your blog--which may be popular already...if not...it should be--and was extremely impressed by how well you balance your unique tastes in music (they roam freely even on an indie-listener's plane) opposite your talents as a writer.

Both are considerable. I commented on this post specifically because I didn't really appreciate Casablancas' album till now. Not a lot of people can change someone's opinion of an artist in a couple hundred words.

That being said, I think you're better than a blog-writer. You ever consider journalism?

I've bookmarked you, so you'll have one extra reader from now on. Don't stop writing.

32feet said...

Hey thanks, Spencer. Appreciate it!