Albert Hammond Jr. Yours To Keep [Rough Trade]

Rating: 7.5

In listening to Yours To Keep, the solo debut of Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., one can’t escape comparing the album to the Strokes. I’ve always been a fan of Hammond Jr.’s razor-edged guitar playing and the Strokes’ impeccably tight presentation; Hammond is, in his way, a very good guitarist, and it follows that any project he embarks on is worth an honest listen. Yours To Keep is worth more than just one—Hammond has amassed a diverse collection of catchy, clean pop songs marked by maturity and romanticism.

Stream 4 album tracks on MySpace

Repeatedly described in reviews as ‘cutesy’ and ‘adorable’, Yours To Keep has a soft, warm sound, as if Hammond Jr. wrote this album with the love-struck teen girl market in mind. He delves into sweet, decidedly un-Strokesy melodies on “Cartoon Music for Superheroes” and “Bright Young Thing”, and his vocals are strong, smooth and mellifluous, achieving a Lennon-like quality on “Blue Skies” that is far from the intemperate scream of Strokes’ vocalist Julian Casablancas’ scream.

Yours To Keep shows the clear impression of classic pop on Hammond Jr.. He’s taken the appeal of Beatles and Beach Boys-inspired songwriting and coupled it with his signature jagged guitar riffs, even closing the album with a pleasing cover of the Buddy Holiday song “Well…All Right”. With other members of the Strokes contributing to the album, the connection between the two projects is immediately apparent: “101” is underscored by bass lines and drumming so impeccably taut they sound mechanized, and its opening chords could easily have appeared on any of the Strokes’ albums. Yet Hammond Jr. retains his freedom to experiment, indulging in a riff of Springsteen-esque proportions that one can’t imagine the purposely snotty Strokes risking.

Yours To Keep lacks the force and memorability to win ringing accolades, but it is surprisingly good, a valiant display of glossy musical craft that would stand on its own were Albert Hammond Jr. not already a famous member of a famous band. It’s enough to pique my interest in seeing him perform at Seattle’s Crocodile Café on March 2nd.

—Mary Mulholland

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