Albert Hammond Jr: AHJ [Album Review]

albert-hammond-jr-ahj-cover Albert Hammond Jr
Cult Records [2013]

It’s nice to hear Albert Hammond Jr. back with his solo work. The Strokes guitarist has not released any new material since his 2008 sophomore album, ¿Cómo Te Llama?. Both of his solo full-length records never tried too hard to separate themselves from The Strokes’ recordings, which I always respected. Hammond has always been an intricate part of that band, so let’s not punish him because he is still being true to himself. With that being said, I also thought that those two earlier records were good but not great.

On this five-song EP, Hammond steps up his game and showcases his experience with intricate song structures that still carry a Strokes vibe, but with Hammond’s voice, they take on a new identity. The opening track, “Cooker Ship,” could pass for a Strokes song if lead singer Julian Casablancas was at the mic, and it would not have been out of place on this year’s Strokes album, Comedown Machine. It actually turns out to be a good way to kick things off because it is familiar to the ear before the breezier “Strange Tidings” rolls through. What I think helps differentiate AHJ from Hammond’s earlier albums is that they combine his more lighthearted sound from the past with a harder-edged rock that reveals itself on the next two tracks, “Carnal Cruise” and “Rude Customer.” Both of these songs do a better job of highlighting Albert’s excellent guitar skills, especially on “Rude Customer,” which has a meticulous string closing that is what you want to hear from a guitarist.

It may surprise some that AHJ is being released on Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records, but it also seems like a natural fit. It will also surprise many that Hammond played all of the instruments on the EP himself, except for the drums, which were played by longtime collaborator Matthew Frank Romano. It is this organic palette that gives AHJ an extra spark that I just never heard on his previous solo albums. I will tell you that AHJ needs several spins for it to catch on. With multiple listens, you can hear all of the layers that make this release much more complex than it initially appears. It also serves as a good foundation for Hammond to build upon because it signals that now is the right time for him to move into a full-length album, which we will eagerly welcome!

Key Tracks: “Cooker Ship”, “Rude Customer”, “Carnal Cruise”

Artists With Similar Fire: Spoon / The Thermals / Graham Coxon

Albert Hammond Jr Website
Albert Hammond Jr Facebook
Cult Records

– Reviewed by Christopher Anthony

Christopher Anthony
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