CRX: The Strokes ’ Nick Valensi ’ s Sub-par Side-Project

BY DREW LACOUTURE

Staff Writer

Rock and alternative quintet CRX finally release their debut album after loads of anticipation and, while not disappointing, “New Skin” is far from a victory. Nick Valensi of The Strokes is leading this band to get back into performing live and it shows because these songs are vibrant, yet lack cohesion.

Image: pitchfork.com

The album commences with the power pop-infused single “Ways to Fake It,” which kicks it off to a nice start. In fact, the first half of the thirty-minute rock fest starts off pretty well. The psychedelic “Broken Bones” possesses the crunching guitar riffs and anthemic ambience of the classic rock greats of the 1970s. “The Walls” is a clear stand-out as well with its aggressive chorus, but the production definitely holds it back.

The same can be said for most of the record. Despite having Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme at the helm of production, this album feels rushed and messy, especially on the closer “Monkey Machine.”  The recording of Valensi’s voice is also rather grating. Obviously, CRX is going for a vintage style, but having a modern backing track with a classic rock mixing is questionable.

Similar to Tom Delonge (of Blink-182 and Angels & Airwaves) and Corey Taylor (of Slipknot and Stone Sour), fans felt alienated and discouraged hearing these two front men perform in different styles than what made them popular. Nick Valensi might be in this same camp, for he does not sound all that passionate and his lyrics read like throwaways from The Strokes

While some songs are lyrically strong, like on “One Track Mind” (“You ran a one-night stand that is never gonna stop/You drop ’em one at a time, never giving it a thought”), other tracks like “Anything” and “Unnatural” have choruses that are completely underwritten and bland.

As far as rock instrumentals go, the album is pretty solid. The solo on the punk-flavored “On Edge,” while short, was quite exciting. The rhythm section does a great job holding down “The Walls.” And of course “Broken Bones” is easily the most well-thought out track here. It is clear that Valensi has gathered up some talent for this project.

This album is a bit scattered in terms of quality and variety. With garage rock, noise rock, punk, power pop and indie rock sprinkled in and between tracks, a casual listener’s job is to find a song or two they enjoy and leave the others. A more focused record with better production and lyrics would have made for a stronger album but, all that said, there is some great stuff on here.

A quick listen of CRX’s debut will certainly not offend any ears, but the front man of The Strokes can certainly do better this deep into his career. The banal lyrics would be more excusable if less experience was behind this record. The tunes are often catchy, but CRX does not excite enough for a return listen.

The Flyer gives “New Skin” a 5/10.

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