When musicians feel frustrated in their own band, they often
go solo; which is what vocalist/guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr.
has done. Disavowing himself from The Strokes, Hammond,
Jr. set out on his own musical path with new band mates Josh
Lattanzi on bass and Matt Romano on drums. His debut
album with his new band Yours To Keep has folk synth-pop
merit with jaunts of '70s soft rock currents and acoustic-pop
psalms. The layered arrangements are stylistically plaited with
a dreamy-pop sonorous which requires additional musicians for
the tour that includes guitarist Steve Schiltz, keyboardist/guitarist
Marc Philippe Eskenazi, and guitarist Todd Dahlhoff.
Hammond, Jr.'s covers of Guided By Voices' tune "Postal
Blowfish" and Buddy Holly's song "Well
Right" indicates his attraction to soft rock melodies, but
I found much more similarity to Hammond, Jr.'s father's own music.
His father Albert Hammond, Sr. was a prolific singer-songwriter
during the '70s and '80s and penned hit songs for other recording
artists like "It Never Rains In Southern California,"
"The Air Than I Breathe," "Nothing's Gonna Stop
Us Now," and "Be Tender With Me Baby." Hammond,
Jr., who was born in 1980, grew up listening to mainstream pop
literally being made in his own home. More than tapping into outside
influences, his solo album shows qualities of the middle-of-the-road
(MOR) production that his father made. They say "like father
like son" but the big difference between the Hammonds is
that the junior one is stepping into the forefront rather than
consenting to being a background player, though junior still makes
music like his father - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
The lo-fi numbers like "Cartoon Music For Superheroes"
and "Everyone Gets A Star" have an easy listening soft
rock vibe. The synth-pop riffs have a folk sensibility and cushiony
esthetics that have a likening to Oasis and Spoon.
Hammond, Jr. focuses on making good sounding melodies with soft
drum and bass thumps and synth planks lining the belly of the
melody as the guitar layers add textures and vibrancy. It's formulaic
in approach and yet execution-wise each song has its own individual
coating, a trait which Hammond, Sr. also showed in the songs he
penned. The comfy beats of "In Transit" along nu wave
style synth prances display an Electric Soft Parade assiduity
and care, while the acoustic-pop suds-zing on "Blue Skies"
flumes with a folk feathering similar to Aqueduct and Gomez.
The downy chamber-pop chimes and wiring on tracks like "Back
To The 101" and "Scared" are lightweight and melodically
toned with a feel good sensation. They are songs you'd hear played
in the Student Union at college. "Call An Ambulance"
has ukulele pitched chords reminiscent of Ben Lee and Illinois,
and the pulsating guitar twists on "Holiday" have correlations
with Sirens Sister's youthful springs and enthusiasm. The
soft punk guitar tones and syncopated drumbeats on "Postal
Blowfish" have a style likened to Monsters Are Waiting
and the final track "Well
All Right" have the smooth
lines and subtle dynamics of Fountains Of Wayne.
Though Hammond, Jr. has the skills to construct comfy MOR melodies
like Fountains Of Wayne for the college set, his lyrics have a
blandness and generic phrasing that could come from anyone. His
song "Scared" recites, "You know that something
inside of you still plays a part in what I do/ Always I'm here
for you/ I think that if we were all we had, that's more than
most people ever have." The lyrics don't connect with people
in a lasting way like Fountains Of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom,"
which is Hammond, Jr.'s weakest aspect in his songs. The reality
or fantasies that he sings about in his songs are made with vague
statements. Now that he is engaged to Catherine Pierce,
who is one half of the sister duo vocal group The Pierces
and who are also opening for Hammond Jr.'s shows, people are expecting
more specialized lyrics to come from him.
Yours To Keep was produced by Greg Lattimer and
also features vocal overdubs by Sean Lennon, Ben Kweller,
The Strokes' Julian Casablancas, Fountains Of Wayne's
Jody Porter, and The Mooney Suzuki's Sam James,
Jr. The soft rock coasting of Hammond, Jr.'s melodies are
easy to like but also generic enough to forget. They make a good
impression like a Savage Garden tune, but they are quick
to forget once the next good sounding melody comes along, just
like Savage Garden.
1. Cartoon Music For Superheroes
2. In Transit
3. Everyone Gets A Star
4. Bright Young Thing
5. Blue Skies
6. Back To The 101
7. Call An Ambulance
10. Postal Blowfish
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