Reviews:: Albert Hammond Jr. Yours to Keep

So here we go. Yes, it’s a solo record from a largely overlooked member of a hugely popular/hated band. Yes, it’s a solo record from the son of a former songwriter from the 70’s who obviously installed a sense of music history in his son’s life. I’d love to review this record and overlook both those facts and judge the output on its own merit.

The thing is, it’s not that easy, especially when you hear that Albert Hammond Jr. has said that the desire to release the solo LP was because the band rejected a lot of his material. You’d have to assume that a lot of these songs are obviously penned to fit into the Strokes style of music. But instead of relying on a dirty, New York inspired sound, Hammond manages to toe the line between the sounds the Strokes do so well and a summery, West coast feel. For every punchy riff on the record, Hammond treats the listener to the other side of the coin, surf side flow of 70’s California rock n’ roll.

When I first read Pitchfork’s take on this record, they made an interesting analogy about how being the 3rd most famous member of a popular band, who is the first to release a solo record makes Albert much like George. I think that’s a great take on this record, but for a more obvious and important reason. George’s talent was often overlooked by the other members (read Paul and John, as Ringo had no pull) and it made his solo material more focused and more enjoyable. While John needed Paul’s pop sensibility to reign in his artistic vision or Paul needed John to add the edge to his syrupy, sappy ballads, George’s solo work stood well on its own. The same can be said about Albert’s. Proving yourself is often the best motivator in life.

Albert implores the same sounds that fans of his band are used to, but also draws on influences you wouldn’t expect. For every crunching guitar or driven drum beat and Stokes-y moment (101 would have been a welcome addition to the last record), Albert manages to surprise you with Beach Boys-inspired melodies and a light feel. While you’d expect – and it must be said that you should enjoy – the spirited cover of the Postal Blowfish, you more than likely were got off guard by the obvious lifting of God Only Knows on Bright Young Thing, the Beatles inspired banjo and whistling tale of a boy dreaming about an unattainable girl on Call An Ambulance or the smile inducing west coast flow of the album closer of Well.. Alright.

Albert knows where his bread is buttered, and the single Everybody Gets a Star showcases that. The song uses simple guitar, bass and drum riffs, but he adds line after line to beef up the sound and keep it interesting. There is no self-indulgence on these songs, with Albert avoiding solos or the desire to strive for an over important collection of songs. His voice is surprisingly strong and lyrically he manages to use an overly pessimistic and optimistic view on most of the songs, which makes his songs even more enjoyable.

Seven of these ten songs are very enjoyable (including the collaboration with Julian on Scared), with flashes of surprisingly strong song writing. Seven out of ten. Seems about right for this record.

MP3:: In Transit
Video:: Back to the 101


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