Albert Hammond, Jr.
Yours to Keep
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2007, Volume 14, #5
Written by John Metzger
Julian Casablancas previously may have received the bulk of the attention in The Strokes, but judging from the strength of guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr.ís solo debut Yours to Keep, Casablancas likely will have to give up at least a little bit of the spotlight from this point forward. Itís no secret that, for some time now, Hammond has been trying to contribute more to the group, but his songs routinely have been shot down by his band-mates. Their loss is his gain, and although several of the cuts on Yours to Keep would have fared quite well in their hands, Hammond wisely steered the songs clear of the gritty, New York-style attitude that emanates from The Strokesí material, thereby leaving himself plenty of room for making his own distinctive statement.
Even so, there are some basic similarities between Yours to Keep and The Strokesí work. Squeezing 10 songs and two bonus tracks into a 40-minute span of time, Hammond retains the tightly scripted, less-is-more charm of his primary outfitís initial two endeavors (Is This It and Room on Fire). Beginning with the twinkling guitars that light up the Beach Boys-meets-Teenage Fanclub melancholia of Cartoon Music for Superheroes and concluding with an indie rock rendition of Buddy Hollyís Well...All Right, Hammond effortlessly moves through a series of eclectic and intriguing sonic textures. Better still, he wraps up the whole affair before it has a chance to overstay its welcome.
Just as recognizable are the guitar riffs that economically dot the landscape, though Hammondís songwriting and his arrangements owe more of a debt to The Beatles than they do to the Velvet Underground. Casablancas and Sean Lennon help to add a psychedelic edge to Scared; while Blue Skies contains the aching, acoustic ambience of John Lennonís solo projects. Elsewhere, hints of The Who ring through the power chords that are tucked inside the shimmering, sun-kissed melody of 101; shades of Wilco are etched into the DNA of the jaunty Call an Ambulance; and Hard to Live in the City, which concludes the proper portion of the album, dissipates in a joyous procession of jazz-inflected, New Orleans-tinged horns. Hammond has stated that he has no intention of leaving The Strokes behind, but should the outfit suddenly collapse under its own weight or continue to shun his compositions, Yours to Keep provides a sturdy foundation upon which he can construct a solo career. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box