CRX will bring debut album, “New Skin” to Austin


Album cover for “New Skin”

On his latest project, Nick Valensi seems to be sticking to what he knows — and it works. 

Having provided the Strokes with a lead guitarist for the better part of the last 20 years, Valensi has finally decided to embark on his own enterprise, CRX, which includes Richie Follin of Guards, Ralph Alexander of the Dose, and Darian Zahedi and Jon Safley of The Reflections.

The band’s first album, “New Skin,” produced by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, is loud and dynamic. At times jarring in its attempt to reconcile pop and metal influences, CRX’s debut is reminiscent of both classic and modern sounds infused with a hotter temper.

Although the album begins with a catchy pop ensemble, “Ways to Fake It,” the ensuing tracks give way to a much edgier, more experimental sound. Most of the songs play with a heavier intent and sound more appropriate for a dive bar than a casual Sunday drive.

Valensi, new to songwriting, clearly prioritizes the music. The sparse, repetitive lyrics are straightforward and have less responsibility on the track than the melodies, which are compelling on their own.

The instrumentals pick up confidently where the words leave off, revealing an unpretentious arrangement of diverse styles and approaches.

Many of the tracks feature pared-down chants that are well-suited for the stage, which was the group’s intent: CRX arose in part from the newly-christened frontman’s itch to perform.

Accustomed to materializing on huge festival stages on tour with The Strokes, Valensi wanted an album he could bring to smaller, more intimate (read: grungier) venues where heavy-handed guitar solos would be well received.

The pressure to create hits for a wide audience base isn’t evident on the album, and the result is a sound that is unrestrained by convention. The vocals and instrumentals sound natural and sometimes improvised, creating the impression that these guys haven’t been playing together for more than a couple of months.

And maybe that’s what they want us to think. Retro and novel all at once, CRX promises to deliver an invigorating live performance.

They’re raw and never sacrifice their unique style for something artificial, like that re-purposed pair of your mother’s vintage jeans, the band feels old and familiar but tailored to fit like new again — like new skin.

CRX will play at Stubb’s in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Dec. 10 with New Zealand band Streets of Laredo. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are available here.