Nick Valensi is the last of The Strokes to embark on a side project. The guitarist used to say he could never imagine working without Julian, Albert, Nikolai or Fab, but then he began to miss the adrenaline rush of touring. ‘New Skin’, the first album from his new band CRX, was born out of that desire to play live, and in more intimate spaces than he’s used to. You can immediately tell what Valensi’s aims for the record were. This isn’t stadium rock with an eye on the lighters-in-the-air crowd. It’s dirty, sludgy rock’n’roll, that sounds best when rambling around a dive bar. It’s heavier and harder than The Strokes, but his guitar lines have that familiar complexity and finesse.
‘Ways To Fake It’ is a gleaming opener, as shrill guitar lines and New Wavey synth hooks pierce through solid foundations. There are elements of The Cars to it, but it’s not a sound that continues throughout the record. By second track ‘Broken Bones’, Valensi and his new band (including Guards’ Richie Follin and The Reflections’ Jon Safley) have moved into much darker, nastier territory. “Picking the scab and watching it bleed” purrs the guitarist-turned-frontman, his voice rich with temptation, before everything shifts into a woozy lullaby of a chorus.
‘New Skin’ was recorded with Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme in the producer’s chair and there are rumbles of his bone-shaking style throughout.‘Unnatural’ is full of sexy, snarling swagger and ‘Walls’ zips by on a wave of thundering riffs. Elsewhere there are hints of industrial (‘Money Machine’) and even reggae (‘Slow Down’), all proving that Nick Valensi has plenty of ideas and invention to offer outside of The Strokes.
- Release date: October 28, 2016
- Record Label: Columbia Records