Albert Hammond Jr. | Yours to Keep (New Line)

cd_albertHammond proves plenty capable, suggesting that it may be time for Casablancas to loosen the band's collaborative strings.





As a member of one of modern rock's most privileged and well-documented bands, it's hard to go unnoticed. Yet, Albert Hammond Jr. has been little more to the casual music fan than "the Strokes' guitarist with the fro," until now. The son of the singer-songwriter of the same name (anybody remember the 1988 Summer Olympics theme "One Moment in Time"?), Hammond is officially the first Strokes member to go solo with Yours to Keep, a delightful venture beyond the periphery of his meticulous day-job. With a voice that is sure to incite comparisons to band-mate Julian Casablancas (but is much more an updated take on John Lennon), Hammond breezes through pop ditties washed in indie-rock beats, filtered vocals, and his distinctively passive guitar-playing. Although Yours to Keep fails to produce as definitive a sound as the Strokes, Hammond proves plenty capable, suggesting that it may be time for Casablancas to loosen the band's collaborative strings.

All natural comparison's aside, Hammond's record is more than strong enough to stand alone, despite its occasional lack of focus. This may be due to the fact that a few of the songs ("In Transit," "Everyone Gets a Star," and "Bright Young Thing") are merely re-workings of instrumentals written for the Strokes' 2001 tour video. However, with Brian Wilson moments on "Cartoon Music for Superheroes," the "what if my band played the songs I wrote and let me sing?" touches on "In Transit," and the ability to craft a pop song worthy of a Guided by Voices or Pixies record with "101," (the album's extra tracks include a cover of the former group's "Postal Blowfish) Hammond displays a fine ability in adding his own flavor to a variety of influences. The manifestation of this all can be most beautifully observed on the acoustic outro of "Bright Young Thing," as well as in the harmonic arrangements of "Scared," in which Casablancas and fellow Institut Le Rosey classmate, Sean Lennon, add backing vocals and instrumentation.

Yours to Keep begins with the melodica-driven lullaby, "Cartoon Music for Superheroes," in which Hammond sweetly muses on the possibility of attaining ones dreams (he has mentioned in interview that this album has been personally anticipated for many years). Moving briskly into one of the album's peaks with "In Transit," a falsetto takes the most Strokes-like riff into pitches rarely strived for by Casablancas, with lilting keys providing the album's catchiest melody. The modern, indie-rock bass-line of "Everyone Gets a Star" introduces the album's most aggressive guitar playing (which isn't saying much), while "Bright Young Thing" decidedly mellows out and sets the pace for the rest of the tracks. The most unique efforts are found in the reverbed waltz of "Blue Skies" and the ukulele-driven "Call an Ambulance," which are both quirky, but otherwise unremarkable.

As a lyricist, Casablancas has Hammond beaten. Yet, this album should probably be taken with a sober heart, the best moments coming at the hands of Hammond's instincts and soulfully enfranchised voice. If you're a huge Strokes fan, this album should be viewed neither as a commercial threat to the band, nor as a sign of an impending break-up. Yours to Keep is merely one cog's laid-back release, kind of what happens when a musician has some free time in the studio with his friends. This is one you can put the cigarettes away for, forget about your personal problems, and embrace the sounds that are intrinsically pleasing. B | Dave Jasmon

RIYL: The Strokes riding in an airplane with Buddy Holly that does not crash

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