Review: Albert Hammond Jr. — Momentary Masters


alberthammond-momentarymastersWhen you’re in your early twenties and you’ve got international hit records under your belt, the Big Apple must look awfully juicy. The East Village parties that never end, the chicks, the drugs – the planet looks like a very small place from there. Such was the world of the Strokes in the early 2000s.

Of course, this familiar rock and roll story can end up one of several ways, some are happy, some are sad, but one thing is for certain — things will always change. The big question is whether the artist can harness change into personal and artistic growth.

Clearly Albert Hammond Jr. has been wrestling with these issues, and it looks like he’s done it well. Momentary Masters is an excellent album from a mature artist who has come to terms with where he’s been, and who seems to have a good idea about where he’s going. The fun and games aren’t what they used to be. Cynicism gives way to honesty. Solitude needs to be addressed.

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Hammond approaches these themes from some different musical directions, all of it guided by solid and steady songwriting, and colored by his distinctive and varied guitar stylings. In the Strokesy “Losing Touch”, Hammond sings:

Used to run a mile but not gain an inch
Making dreams real by killing some trees
It’s not goodbye, I’m just losing touch

What you call wisdom, I call pain
Stepped out of line, I missed my train
In time you’ll say, I’m just losing touch

Happy here? The rest’s a wreck!
Strangers come, the night begins
Silence weighs a thousand tons
Her youth describes, you’re lost in it

You can’t control the ocean, you can’t control the tide
Maybe maybe maybe put your ego aside
It’s like I said, I’m just losing touch

The beautiful opening track “Born Slippy” works off a guitar riff reminiscent of Modest Mouse, and Hammond builds a bold, soaring melody as he sings of renewal:

And the years gone by
And the maid’s been gone
She remembered to leave the keys at home
There are more of us then there are of them
Everytime you stop, I begin

I don’t recall Hammond’s singing ever sounding so pure and versatile. On “Caught By My Shadow” he sounds like Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys, and on the lovely shuffle ballad “Coming to Getcha” he brings real sensitivity and vulnerability. That’s what happens when you grow as an artist – everything grows, except your ego.

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