By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
If youre even moderately cynical, the blueprint to Albert Hammond Jr.s music is rife with red flags: the affinity for 70s pop clichés, the certain cellophane sheen, the saccharine lyrics, the Bono-quality Spanish. And, of course, the ever-looming specter of his other band, which is especially hard to avoid when your songs are chock-full of Strokes signifiers: snapped snares, twitchy guitar sounds, sweetly parabolic melodies, and a romantically lethargic vocal delivery thats only a grade of coarseness away from that of Julian Casablancas himself. Actually, Hammonds approach to song aestheticsbasic, thin, and stylishis a lot closer to the early-Strokes style the bands fans have lately been demanding than anything the Strokes themselves have recently recorded.
First and foremost, though, hes the son of a songwriter. Whats invariably clear on ¿Cómo Te Llama? is that Hammond understands how a popular rock song is made, and how it works: He has an iron-clad grip on traditional forms, writes good melodies with apparent ease, keeps it simple, and decorates tastefully with a variety of twirls and twinkles. For the most part, his tunes locate the space where those pretty hokey traditions reconcile with hipper sensibilities. And like the son of a musician, his records also sound really good: professionally savvy, polished, and cleanly produced. As such, when he fails, it usually isnt because hes written a particularly bad song, but rather a completely benign one. More or less, he walks the same tightrope here: Victory at Monterrey with its processed vocals, nightclub pulse, and I said/She said storylineflirts too heavily with a concept, devolving into a sterile case of Killers-style dance rock. Rocket and The Boss Americana also suffer from too much gloss.
By contrast, though, Bargain of a Century and GFC are pleasantly messy: Hammond stretches his delivery into something thats both sweet and rough, the guitars become more locomotive than ornamental, and the crispness of the albums sound is more deeply felt as a result. ¿Cómo Te Llama? is best when the songs seem to shake and quaver within their candy-coated shells; fittingly, thats when theyre at their Strokes-iest. Its a slippery slope this guy is skiing, but it can be pretty fun listening to him do it.