Nickel Eye 

The Time of the Assassins

Even as rumors abound that the Strokes reconvened in the studio last month to start work on that long-awaited fourth studio album, individual band members have restlessly been waiting for singer Julian Casablancas to get his act together. Guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. has already popped out two solo outings, and drummer Fabrizio Moretti dropped a self-titled debut with his side project Little Joy this past November. Add bassist Nikolai Fraiture to the list as his own band, Nickel Eye, joins the party with this collection of songs backed by UK band South.

Given how far in the background Fraiture is during his regular musical day job, it's no surprise that Nickel Eye's sound isn't that far removed from that of the Strokes. There's the herky-jerky garage rock of "Dying Star" (featuring Yeah Yeah Yeah's Nick Zinner), the loping snoozer "This Is the End," and the thumping post-punk of "You and Everyone Else."

And while his lackadaisical drawl immediately brings to mind Strokes frontman Casablancas, there's more than a bit of Jonathan Richman's drollness floating to the surface, particularly when Fraiture drops the f-bomb during the refrain of "Back From Exile."

There are some redeeming moments, such as the vibrant pop of "Another Sunny Afternoon," fueled by jangly acoustic guitar and winsome harmonica riffs, and the reggae shuffle "Brandy of the Damned." Otherwise, The Time of the Assassins ends up being intriguing for Strokes completists only. (Rykodisc)

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