Supergroup's freshman album relatable and remarkable
The Strokes’ Nick Valensi and Guards’ Richie Follin Team-Up to Make Supergroup
Supergroups, side projects and solo records featuring several notable musicians really feel like they’ve been picking up in popularity in the last decade or so.
I don’t know if it’s that collaboration is becoming easier, or that bands and labels are friendlier with each other than they used to be, but it seems like EVERYONE is working on three things at once, or showing up on each other’s new singles.
It’s not a bad thing. Eagles of Death Metal, Atoms for Peace, and A Perfect Circle all basically fall into that category, and I like all of them plenty.
CRX includes Nick Valensi from The Strokes stepping up for lead vocals as well as guitar; Richie Follin from Guards on keys, guitar and backup vocals; and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age as producer. It’s a pretty significant lineup, with Ralph Alexander, John Safley and Darian Zahedi rounding out the group.
Their album, “New Skin,” does a great job of being poppy, fast-paced power rock that’s easy to digest and enjoy. It’s not going to stir the depths of your soul, but I imagine their concerts are going to be sweat-soaked, bump-into-your-neighbor experiences.
Valensi and Follin pair up well together, Guards and the Strokes have complementary sounds, and they both bring that to the table here. Homme’s influence seems to really show up on the darker sounding tracks, though maybe Valensi and Follin have a sweat and beer soaked rocker inside them that “New Skin” is finally an avenue for.
“Ways To Fake It” has a cutesy Britpop feel to it – easy to sing along to, chipper and catchy. There’s something to the feel that reminds me of “You Might Think” by The Cars.
When “Broken Bones” starts, the album swings into a greasy rock and roll vibe. Josh Homme’s influences show up in a few places on “New Skin,” and the wailing guitar and swinging bass and drums here are the best examples.
“Anything” switches back to staccato guitar builds and chirpy vocals that sound more like a Strokes song, and the rest of the album continues this swapping of styles. It’s coherent, but it really does feel like we’ve got two half albums in different styles that happen to mash up well. “Walls” drops you back into grimier thrash.
“On Edge” has a great knocked around feeling – the guitar and keyboards grind along at a frantic pace. “Unnatural” follows, more frantic than the last track, and a little more dissonant and distorted. Again, the feeling that Homme was a little more in charge here.
The album finishes hard with “Monkey Machine,” which fits the theme of the overall experience and complements the much less rough around the edges “Ways to Fake It” that the album starts off on.
The sound can be disparate at times: Shiny plastic, dirty garage, glittery pop, grease stained chrome. The album maintains a solid balance while shifting back and forth, but it bounces you around all the way through. I felt a bit bruised and happy by the end of it.
CRX will play The Launchpad (618 Central Ave. SW) on Dec. 15 with Streets of Laredo and Hideout.
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