Prime Edition

A punchy return to indie roots
AKHIL SOOD  22nd Aug 2015

Momentary Masters

Albert Hammond, Jr


The Strokes were a precious little band when they first broke out, when they... you know, used to be good. They inhabited that sweet spot between guilty pleasure and challenging aesthetic stimulant with crispy and drawling indie meanderings. These days, they're just spectacularly all over the place, and I miss the old them. But that affliction has seemingly bypassed Albert Hammond, Jr, their guitar player who's put out Momentary Masters, his third solo full-length. Let's get the obvious comparison out of the way early — Hammond's vocal delivery, while admirable in its own way, doesn't quite have the same effortless, mercurial quality as Julian Casablancas'.

But then Momentary Masters is really all about the songwriting. Its 10 songs all function as tight, concentrated splotches of high energy with an air of completion to them. Each song seems whole in and of itself — to the point where it gets hard to pick a highlight as each piece has a strong identity around which it's built, from Born Slippy to Don't Think Twice or Caught by my Shadow — woven through lively, spider-like guitar lines, draped around which are the large-spirited vocals. The busyness of the guitars on display — as punchy basslines are intersected by Hammond's trademark style of frantic strums and licks — gives the album a pleasingly rushed vibe. You can almost sense the urgency of a composer to get as much material out as is possible in a limited time frame, a fact that increases the amicability of the music.

Of course, the fact that The Strokes stopped being derivative and decided to undertake heavy-handed experiments which failed my ears does have an impact on my interpretation of this album, filling a gap, so to speak, that the band's change in direction created. But a little more objectively, Momentary Masters is not without its flaws. Chief among them is one that plagues so many solo records by musicians in established bands: The group chemistry is always absent, for obvious reasons, hence diminishing the overall impact somewhat (down the line, how much recall value will the album have, for starters?). But that's just a very minor digression (an unnecessary macro analysis), which should in no way detract from the very fun experience of listening to this album.

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