Julian Casablancas is going to spend the rest of his time on earth being asked to talk about the first two Strokes albums. That’s the price of making music that connects with people, but you can’t blame him for chafing a little at all those questions about the work he did in his early twenties. Sometimes he runs as far as he can from that sound, as on the completely bonkers choose-your-adventure prog-noise debut that he made with his new band, the Voidz, in 2014; at other times, he relents and offers up a little of that old Mercury Lounge magic, as on the best songs from the second Voidz album, released in 2018. Then there’s the third path he’s chosen with “Did My Best,” the Voidz’ new single. It’s a sweet, sozzled ballad that’s all about how tired he is of being expected to make songs like this one.
“Let me tell you a story about the hazy good old days,” Casablancas sings in his best world-weary Lou Reed croon. The melancholy melody he goes to next is vintage Jules. He’s singing about nostalgia, although it’s hard to tell at first what he means to say about it: “Now nobody cares about the days of old/Take a quick picture, then you run home,” he laments early on, adding, “Oh, mama, how I miss those days.” Does he, though? It’s only at the very end of the song, after a guitar solo, some Auto-Tune, and an odd lyrical interlude involving a witch with a poison apple, that he takes the mask off and admits how he really feels. “I never think about those days everyone’s talking about/They were the best, I guess,” he sings through a vocal-fried mic effect that can’t help but recall your old copy of Is This It. “You say you like the way I dress/It gets really old.”
Casablancas recently told Rolling Stone that “Did My Best” is about “nostalgia and not giving a shit about it personally.” To a fan’s ears, it can’t help but serve as a reminder that he is incredibly good at writing this particular kind of rock song, even if that’s not something he’s always very interested in doing. But it also suggests a promising way forward. Casablancas and his fellow Voidz recorded “Did My Best” in Mac DeMarco’s gear-filled Los Angeles garage, and it has more than a touch of Mac’s underrated, sadder-than-it-seems Here Comes the Cowboy in its DNA. Is an entire album of lo-fi, bummed-out Voidz tunes produced by DeMarco too much to hope for?