Nick Valensi is addicted to touring. That is a good thing. As the lead guitarist for The Strokes, the time he has spent on stage has become something he really looks forward to. In interviews, he talks about how much he loves to feel the energy of the crowd and interact with fans. The Strokes, however, do not tour very often. The members of The Strokes do, though, have a proud history of creating excellent bands on their own.
In 2013, Valensi decided to take the leap and form a group of his own- this time as the lead guitarist and singer. He assembled a lineup of musicians who also are more widely known for other bands: Ralph Alexander, Richie Follin, Darian Zahedi, and Jon Safley. Together, they came together and began to write until they dropped a single titled “Ways to Fake It” on September 7, 2016.
They began to tour slowly, putting on shows at mid-sized venues around the states. Finally, they announced a new album, the culmination of years of work, titled New Skin and it’s everything they could have hoped for as a first LP. The collaboration of experienced musicians and artists has produced an album most easily described as metal to sing along to, in addition to being eminently enjoyable to fans of any of the bands of the musicians.
The album drives through its 30 minutes with crisp production value and chrome pop. The most important thing to understand about New Skin is that it is tailor-made for live performances. The album flows like a setlist, including clapping in the background of several songs, like “One Track Mind” and “Monkey Machine.” It even opens with the most recognizable number – “Ways to Fake It” – and eases up in the middle to give the band a chance to breathe with the song “Slow Down.”
There’s something beneath the pop of New Skin that’s a little darker, though, which is what keeps it exciting. Credit for that must partially go to the album’s producer, the incredible Josh Homme, who is most widely known as the lead singer and guitarist of the bands Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, and the Eagles of Death Metal. Homme brought on the UK artist boneface to do the artwork for the album.
Interestingly enough, boneface also did the artwork and music videos for Queens of the Stone Age’s last album, …Like Clockwork, Homme can be heard in New Skin bringing his riff-oriented desert rock to the song “Broken Bones,” which comes across with its dark tone and garage rock feel as the love child of the Strokes and QotSA.
In many ways, that is exactly what this album is. Valensi has found a way to step out into his own as a lead singer, bringing forth a voice that is uniquely old-fashioned and perfectly suits the feel of CRX’s more metal undertone. Alexander brings an incredible voice to the guitar, making it squeal occasionally in a way that hints at an edgier feel that may come in future works by CRX.
Zahedi can also be singled out for his powerfully energetic drumming, which in many places drives the action of the song as much as the hair-metal riffs. Altogether, New Skin sets out to establish songs that CRX can bring down the house with, and it succeeds.