Albert Hammond Jr. is the member of The Strokes that everyone loves and wants to succeed. He’s easily the most vocal of the group in interviews and has been very open about his love of The Strokes and the hope that one day they’ll do something that feels as good as ‘Is This It?’. The past few years have been good for Albert since he kicked a drug habit and has been gradually building his confidence back up with his presence on social media being massive and him having the confidence to release solo material in late 2013 with ‘AHJ’. Albert sends off an aura of pure love for music, and the fans can feel it and it makes them appreciate him more-so as he gives to them because you can tell it brings him such joy. There’s a sense that Albert is as a big a fan of The Strokes as the actual fans are and he cares deeply about it.
It should come as no surprise that his new album sounds like the work of a massive music fan. There are hints of so many different eras and artist’s work all over this album. Naturally on the vast majority of this album there are hints of guitar-work similar to that of The Strokes with many staccato guitars and ear-worm melodies built over pretty tight rhythm sections. He’s been an essential part of The Strokes formula and their quintessential guitar melodies and although the work on here doesn’t quite have the chemistry that The Strokes always have, on songs like ‘Touche’ they prove to stick very well. But the similarities to his group’s work goes further than just the guitar work, his voice will often be filtered through the same hazy effect Julian Casablancas uses and sometimes Albert even sounds similar to him in the way he pronounces his words like on the chorus of ‘Losing Touch’.
There’s even a point on this album where Albert does a delightful little cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice’. He takes the song and makes it Electric with his typically prominent guitar-work and makes it work in the concept of his album conceptually and sonically. Saying this his inner-fandom can’t quite control itself a lot of the time because it’s evident that he’s trying hard not to give in to doing little Dylanisms in his voice. ‘Momentary Masters’ is naturally an unoriginal album but it’s filled with sonic pleasantries because they’re done with the love and care of someone who just wants to make the music that he wants to hear. It’s not clear if Albert is directly pulling from his work with his main band or if he actually still wears their original influences on his sleeve like Television with guitar lines on songs like the opener ‘Born Slippy’.
The one place this album is distinct to Albert himself is in the lyrics which actually detail the struggle of self-doubt and sinking into depression as well as creating songs that help lift him up towards the end of the album. On the opening track ‘Born Slippy’ he talks of how the sun sometimes slips behind the clouds and as a result the warmth is hard to be found, and on ‘Caught In My Shadow’ he talks of being with another person and feeling like they’re in paradise, perhaps documenting the overwhelming luxury that comes your way with success as he sings ‘Have you been in a house so big/Where rooms don’t exist/Where some rooms don’t exist?’; there’s a feeling of hopelessness that fills the song despite this, like the paradise is a fraud. Whereas towards the back-end of the album on tracks like ‘Touche’ the paradise seems a lot more genuine and realistic –even though it may be bitter-sweat — admitting that ‘we’re not perfect we just have to be good’.
The genuine love and energy that pulsates throughout this music is something that The Strokes have been missing for a while despite the fact that they’re a group of extremely talented musicians. Perhaps if they had a bit more of the passion that Albert has then the group would be capable of creating something that takes them out of the shadow that ‘Is This It?’ and ‘Room On Fire’ cast. Despite the fact that ‘Momentary Masters’ isn’t too ambitious and wears its influences in plain sight for the world to see, it’s an enjoyable little pop album that will probably give the people who’ve missed The Strokes for a while now something to chew on. Which is something that I believe Albert Hammond Jr was aiming for, because you get the sense he cares about this.
Best Tracks: Touche, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, Born Slippy, Losing Touch