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August 8, 2011 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

From the Ritz to the Rubble

The face that stares out from the cover of Rolling Stone, circa 2003, is not just the face of Julian Casablancas, leader of The Strokes, nor is it merely the face of the Cultural Revolution they instigated. It’s the face, the very personification, of creativity itself. Or at least it was. The past ten years have seen Julian Casablancas weather an assault of self-doubt and success, which have accompanied the highs and lows of his musical career as perfunctorily as the token groupies.

The son of a former Miss Denmark and the man behind Elite Models, Casablancas’ life was always imbued with affluence and prestige, famously attending one of the most exalted boarding schools in the world, Switzerland’s Le Rosey. However, the meteoric rise to fame and subsequent debauchery stunned not only him, but also the most seasoned industry professionals.

From the very beginning, Julian and Co. immersed themselves in a currency of magazine covers, sold-out shows and girls. Nevertheless it was always Casablancas, the sole songwriter and creative lifeblood of The Strokes, that held the most allure. In a musical landscape where Limp Bizkit and saccharine boybands reigned supreme, it was Julian’s artistic drive that gave them the gusto to pioneer the garage-rock resurgence, enabling a crop of bands to ride on their coattails.

Is This It, with its colossal impact on the music scene, caused Casablancas to quickly became the No.1 darling of the music press, however, the adulation he came to expect was not to last. Disappointment marked the release of Room on Fire, for which he received a lambasting from critics and fans, for the apparent lack of creative progression.
This seemingly caused him to recede into a shell of crippling self-doubt, only to reemerge in 2006 with his bandmates for another shot at the title of rock heavyweights with First Impressions of Earth. The dismal reception it received though, both critically and commercially, served to cement their desire to take a break from each other.

Now five years and one solo album later, the Julian Casablancas of 2011 is suitably jaded and embittered. He doesn’t hold the same magnetism or air of mystery as he did as a bright young thing in his early twenties. With a son and the obligatory ball-and-chain to provide for, musical ingenuity seems to take a backseat to money. He’s been seen plastering his face all over a Converse ad with Santogold and Pharrell, while also joining forces with everyone from The Lonely Island and Queens of the Stone Age as well as helping the dynamic dance-duo that is Digitalism hammer out a song, seemingly spreading himself out with all the discernment employed by a two-dollar hooker.

Maybe this is what led to his burnout, which sees him noticeably disengaged in his latest effort with The Strokes, instead preferring to take a backseat and let his bandmates make the crucial decisions. Undeniably, Casablancas is no longer the formidable creative genius he once was. A fact only highlighted by the reality that his latest collaborative project, Angles, will never set the charts on fire, at best it may just manage to singe them. How the mighty fall.


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