Nickel Eye - The Time Of The Assassins

The Strokes' Nikolai Fraiture's solo debut...
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The Strokes’ dawdling in grouping together to set in motion album four has now led to two members embarking on side-project affairs.

Last year Little Joy – featuring The Strokes’ drummer Fabrizio Moretti – released their self-titled debut album (read our interview with the band HERE), and now bassist Nikolai Fraiture is taking advantage of the overlong hiatus by releasing his Nickel Eye debut. See what he did there? Oh yeah, that’s some pun action worth a grimace.

‘The Time Of The Assassins’ isn’t a solo project through and through – as with Little Joy, where Moretti worked closely with Los Hermanos man Rodrigo Amarante, Fraiture calls upon collaborators to give his songs the flesh and bone he alone can’t manifest. In what seems like an odd artistic marriage, British group South provide the backing here, alongside some better-known guests, namely Regina Spektor and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner.

Without wishing to offend, it’s probably a fair comment that most bassists aren’t the creative driving force in their groups – although perhaps Lemmy would disagree. Fraiture’s work here reflects this notion, with not one composition really possessing an identity of its own, instead favouring to dress in colours already displayed a thousand times before. While this doesn’t mean he’s produced a bad record, it does lend ‘The Time Of Assassins’ a well-worn feel – it’s likeable, with pluses enough to just about outnumber its shortcomings, but whether you’ll return to it as often as the classics it looks to ape remains to be seen.

With cues taken from the likes of Neil Young and Leonard Cohen – Fraiture covers the latter’s ‘Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye’ for this album’s closer – throughout echoes of the past imprint themselves on a record not designed to tickle the fancy of modern trend followers. Fraiture is clearly celebrating his songwriting heroes by offering flattery in the form of loose imitation – an honourable pursuit, but not one that will set him in good stead for any further adventures in a semi-solo capacity.

Fraiture’s no lead singer, either – at times his flatness simply annoys. So while ‘Dying Star’ ups the album’s otherwise shuffling, unhurried tempo, its energy is diluted somewhat by an underwhelming vocal. He’s not awful, not at all; but the disaffection that plagues his voice on more than one occasion sees it sink into a near-deadpan mumble that grates away at the senses.

The roots of this record are deep, stretching back to Fraiture’s teenage years when he’d write poems and embark on roadtrips. Perhaps this is what the man needed – to let these ghosts of his past loose with the minimum of fuss, using the smokescreen of his ‘dayjob’ to distract from any focused analysis of a record that is, by all accounts, slight of frame and short on commercial appeal. If that was the intention, he’s succeeded – The Strokes’ return will see this record consigned to the same dusty shoebox his poems were stored in all those years.

A passable, wisely brief effort (35 minutes in total) at stretching his solo wings, Fraiture’s achievement here is likely to be measured only in personal satisfaction, rather than critical column inches. Good on him for getting it out of his system. Now, that fourth album… guys?

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