Albert Hammond Jr: Melodies On Hiatus [Album Review]

Albert Hammond Jr
Melodies On Hiatus
Red Bull Records [2023]

While The Strokes continue to be an ongoing concern, with the band opening for parts of the recent Red Hot Chili Peppers tour and the word in late in 2022 that the band was back in the studio with producer Rick Rubin, guitarist Albert Hammond Jr has used the at times lengthy breaks between recording and tours to release solo albums, much like vocalist Julian Casablanca’s side project The Voidz. The Strokes took seven years from their previous outing to release 2020’s The New Abnormal, with Hammond releasing two solo records in the interim. This time, on his fifth solo outing, Melodies on Hiatus, the guitarist delivers a double-album length, 19 tracks, introducing the first 9 songs through streaming back in May, while the full-length recording landed late in June.

As you’d expect, since Hammond’s guitars are central to The Strokes sound, a recognizable, bright, fluid guitar sound dominates across the wide spectrum of his songs here, while many of them lean to the poppier, more accessible, melody-friendly side of things. On a couple songs, Hammond calls in a few ringers to contribute; especially fun is “Thoughtful Distress,” which includes Arctic Monkey’s drummer Matt Helders, and some great guitar dueling with Billy Idol’s main axe-man Steve Stevens; the resulting jam is a keeper. And the intro of a rap verse to “100-99” by GoldLink sounds fresh in the album’s opening song, but the weird line that “I could have just killed you” doesn’t quite fit the light airy tone of Hammond’s own verses, not to mention the whole autotune aspect. But the lyrics here, written by Simon Wilcox, are not really the point, they are generally basic pop song fare to give Hammond something to sing over his guitar parts, and provide the occasional vocal hook. We hear another aspect of Hammond’s music interests in the keyboard dominate pop song “Alright Tomorrow,” and the brief transition piece that is “Remembrance,” which is a chance to experience female vocalist Rainsford, a real departure from the rest of the album’s tracks.  

While there are numerous moments throughout the other 17 selections, where Hammond’s crisp, choppy chording will suggest a Strokes-like possibility, Hammond’s poppy melodic singing voice provides a major distinction. So, the goods here, for guitar fans, is hearing this fine player creating pleasing sonic textures, and occasionally soloing in ways that reveal a completely fresh, unexpected sound from the guitar player. The punky fun of “Memo of Hate,” echoes of surf guitar on “818,” the Velvet Underground feel of “Fast Kitten,” and the Stonesy “Never Stop.” While “Old Man” feels like a Hammond tribute to his own band, it works as one of the early singles, and his guitar parts do not disappoint. Same on tracks like “Downtown Fred,” “Darlin’,” and “I Got You.”

Given how long we end up waiting for new music from The Strokes, Hammond’s solo work is a pleasant way to kill the time, and it works as a fun, summer road record, tossed off lyrics, and those great guitar lines that seem to add miles per gallon.

“Old Man” / “Thoughtful Distress” / “Memo Of Hate”

The Strokes / Arctic Monkeys / Spoon

Momentary Masters (2015) / AHJ (2013)

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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