In 2008, New York rockers The Strokes were two years into a hiatus that ended up lasting seven. The world had just recovered from their last album First Impressions of Earth, which ended up doing atrociously despite the presence of some classic songs such as You Only Live Once or Heart In A Cage. Fortunately, guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. broke the silence with a solo effort. Entitled ¿Como Te Llama?, it followed the moderate success of 2007’s earlier EP, In Transit, and embodied the carefree feel-good sound that The Strokes were known for in their pomp, while adding Albert Hammond’s own personal twist.
Fast forward seven years later. The Strokes have come and gone again releasing two new albums (they are reported to be working on a third), to mixed reviews, and along with that, Albert Hammond Jr. revived his solo career with Momentary Masters. Unfortunately, there is such a drastic change from ¿Como Te Llama? that it could almost be described as a regression. It’s reminiscent of The Strokes, but rather than hitting the heights of Is This It, Room on Fire or even Comedown Machine, it reminds the listener of Angles or – shudder – the second half of First Impressions of Earth.
The ten-track album can mostly be summarized by listening to title track Born Slippy. It isn’t necessarily a bad song, but having listened to previous exploits both as part of The Strokes and as a solo act, it’s natural to want and expect more from Albert Hammond Jr. Subsequent songs, such as Razor’s Edge or Coming To Getcha, only consolidate that feeling, and the album has the same feel throughout; not as a loving homage or a callback to The Strokes, but as if the album was comprised of songs from the cutting room floor after the band’s work together.
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When the album stops acting as a bad impression to its parent act and deviates in an attempt to define its own sound, the results are encouraging, but mixed; punchy, bass-driven Caught By My Shadow is refreshing to hear and is a reminder of the talent at Albert Hammond Jr.’s disposal, while Losing Touch is the highlight of the album, but we also experience Don’t Think Twice, which is so lacking in substance that this many listeners didn’t realize that there ten songs on Momentary Masters and not nine.
The crowning ignominy of Momentary Masters is the closing track, Side Boob. At the time of writing, it was the third most listened-to track from this album on Spotify, but after listening it’s clear that this is due to its… original title. If this album hadn’t been produced by an alumnus of The Strokes, Side Boob would be the song that forced Julian Casablancas and the rest of the band to phone their lawyers for copyright infringement, and maybe even defamation of character.
A decade ago, to say that Momentary Masters is almost identical to The Strokes would be a compliment of the highest order, but that same comparison is definitely not a good thing here.
‘Momentary Masters’ is out now on Vagrant Records