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Review: The Voidz – Virtue

The Voidz are now onto their 2nd album. The album is called Virtue. Here’s a review of Virtue.

There’s a playfulness to Virtue that probably is common in most of the things that Julian Casablancas has been involved with, but is probably emphasised here by the decision to lean more toward synth-based forms of music over guitar-based forms.

Some of the lyrics seem to lean more toward the political than they do otherwise, but it’s not something that’s obvious due to how the vocals are usually buried by vocal processing, as well as how distracting the melodies are at times.

“All Wordz Are Made Up” stands out quite a bit due to how joyous it sounds without sounding forced. It’s just a really happy-sounding song that, whilst veering a bit into cheese, is balanced quite well and flows really nicely.

“My Friend The Walls” also stands out, with a driving sound and tense feeling that runs throughout the whole song.

Otherwise the songs border on the mildly interesting and are fairly consistent, but not much else stands out. A few too many times the songs delve into the self-indulgent (“Leave It In My Dreams” and “Think Before You Drink”, among others are prime examples), and the whole affair sounds really flat as though it was mastered to be as such and not recorded in that manner. There’s impressions of where there should be more dynamic stuff going on (such as in “Pink Ocean” and “QYURRYUS”) but it doesn’t go beyond impressions.

This would be okay but this isn’t the biggest issue with the album.
The biggest issue is Julian Casablancas. He doesn’t sound as though he cares for far too much of the album and the end result is, when not vocoded, mostly lazy. Perhaps it was the intention, but all it ends up doing is dragging a bunch of songs that could have worked much better down. “ALieNNatioN” has a solid beat and something that’s kind of funky going on with it and it’s only hampered when Julian Casablancas’ half-assed off-key warble comes in whilst at the same time seemingly trying to sound like it’s the coolest thing in the world.

It’s not even so much that it drags the songs down that’s the problem as much as it is disappointing to hear how Julian Casablancas delivers his lines. He has a strong set of pipes and when he uses them he really delivers. It comes through well, even when the vocals are processed, such as the chorus sections of “All Wordz Are Made Up”. At other moments during (comparatively) subdued vocal sections (various parts of “QYURRYUS”), Julian Casablancas is able to still get that delivery across whilst adding a bit more tension as well as a playfulness.

However, too often he sounds like he’s mumbling, slurring and going off-key and too often he relies on vocal processing. Despite the “experimental” nature of the record, it works less than it could.

On Virtue, The Voidz certainly sound like they’re having fun, but it feels like there’s a wall that’s intentionally been put betwen the band and the listener. There’s some interesting songs, but playing around with electronic music an experimental album does not make, unless you consider it as experimental for those with an exceptionally narrow frame of reference.

Devo were and somehow still remain a subversive, satirical artistic endeavour. It’s arguable that they’ve had far more misses than they had hits when it comes to balancing their elements, but overall they left a body of work that is more experimental and influential (for both the wrong and right reasons) than most people would like to admit.

What’s more important is that their stuff puts you into a position where you can think about what you were hearing and not have the meaning drowned out. Sometimes it’s a little too on the nose and some of the message loses its impact, but Devo understood finesse.

I could list a number of other bands that worked with electronic music that were forward-thinking, whether intentional or otherwise, but that might be considered unfair. Considering the amount of time that the members of The Voidz have been working in music and their sound on this album seemingly dripping in nostalgia more often than it is looking forward, I don’t consider it unfair to compare them to artists that were around in eras that are being referenced.

There’s nothing wrong with the past and it’s something that should be looked upon. However, music needs to look at least just as much toward something other than the past. Too much of Virtue looks to the past. Combined with the vocal performance, and the flat-sounding mix, the album suffers more than it should.

Virtue is not necessarily bad. The musicianship is decent and there’s some songs that really stand out in quality, but overall there’s not much that can be said beyond it being interesting. The Voidz is a group that is better than this, but there’s some issues that are letting them down.

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