CRX executed a running start into the music scene with the release of its first album New Skin this weekend. Lead vocalist and guitarist Nick Valensi embodies the album’s title, diverging from his acclaimed band The Strokes in this edgy combination of pop and heavy metal.
Valensi finally decided to break into a solo project away from the success of The Strokes, much like his other band members already had, out of an itch to start playing live shows again. He still has plans to return to working with the band he has been loyal to since the early 2000s, but for now the 35-year-old musician aims to explore new creative possibilities with CRX, which was born out of Los Angeles in 2013.
Valensi surrounds himself with band members who are no strangers to the music world themselves, including Ralph Alexander of The Dose on drums, Richie Follin of Guards on keyboard, guitar, and vocals, and Darian Zahedi and Jon Safley of The Reflections on bass and guitar. Josh Homme, who gained his rock expertise as the founder and lead vocalist of Queens of the Stone Age, produced the album, aiding the band by catering to what each individual song required, whether that meant extensive research regarding one instrumental detail in the bridge of one song or a hands-off approach for another. This flexible kind of approach lends itself to CRX, allowing members to collaborate freely and discover their unique collective sound.
CRX released its first single, “Ways to Fake It,” on Sept. 7, establishing a lively rock style that is characteristic of New Skin. The steady yet pulsating drum line works with the electric edge of the keyboard to create a beat that matches the equally edgy lyrics about feeling repressed by expectations. The heavy repetition of a small range of words and phrases actually feeds into focus on the instrumental aspect of the song, a more powerful representation of the song’s theme.
CRX continued on to release its second single, “Broken Bones,” on Oct. 20, this time amping up the instruments even more fiercely than before. The strong use of electric guitar chords and clashing drum cymbals produce a kind of charged dissonance that conveys the song’s message of violent brokenness.
The other eight songs released with the full album follow the already constructed electricity of these first two singles. “Give It Up” includes an eerie build of vocals and claps that erupt into powerful drum and guitar features, while “Anything” utilizes backup vocals to create a full vibrancy of sound. “Slow Down” mimics its title with a slower approach to the band’s typical musical violence and focuses on a longing for more time. “Unnatural” returns to a race-like utilization of drums and guitar, and “On Edge” conveys a similar punch of instruments to produce a warp-like atmosphere. “Walls” imitates “Ways to Fake It” with its reference to “When everyone is faking it,” and doesn’t present any originality, unlike the other songs. “Monkey Machine” expresses a theme of restlessness with the spotlight on a potent guitar solo, similar to “One Track Mind,” which is filled with futuristic, almost freakish anticipation.
While CRX has noted The Cars and Elvis Costello as inspirations for its retro rock vibrations, artists that certainly live up to this designation, New Skin seems to encompass its own pop rock style. Valensi seemed to largely avoid resembling The Strokes, except for some slight overlap in sound that is inevitable when both bands encompass a modern revival of the older rock forms. Any overlap, however, seems to evaporate after the first couple verses of each song reveal a fresher, more electric feel.
New Skin ultimately accomplishes an impressive debut for the newly founded CRX, a coalition of musicians that, by the sounds of it, will command a lasting presence in modern rock. The band has successfully coalesced musicians from other hit groups and utilized their individual talents to produce a fully new sound. If anything, this feat is CRX’s most notable characteristic thus far.
Featured Image By Columbia Records