Albert Hammond Jr.s Bono-Quality Spanish Is Back
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.
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