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Some Straight-Up Rock and Roll: In Praise of Albert Hammond Jr.

Written by: Russell Davidson, CC2K Sports Editor

Image Does anyone make straight-up rock-n-roll records anymore? All these groups out there, gimmicky, dressed up, retro poseurs, metal freaks, bar-band dullards, rapping idiots, dance crap, all doing LITTLE OR NOTHING to help the cause of good music along.      

And then there’s Albert Hammond, Jr.

Lemme fill you in. Albert’s dad is Albert Hammond, Sr., most famous for the song “It Never Rains in Southern California,” a pretty big hit back in the 70s.  The guy had a bunch of albums then went on to be a big-time producer/songwriter. Now Junior, our boy here, meets Julian Casablancas at an elite prep school in Switzerland, and they go on to form The Strokes, perhaps the best rock band of their generation. But The Strokes, much as I love ‘em, are a lazy bunch, taking all kinds of time between records, so Albert comes out with his own, “Yours to Keep” (2006), a truly great piece of work. Rumor has it that the other Strokes wouldn’t use any of Albert’s songs, hence the solo album. Whatever. Albert insists he’s not leaving the band. This first record of his came off less crowded than the Strokes stuff, more lyrical, childlike, free-flowing. The Strokes seem quite determined to rock out, where Albert can take a breath, can pause, can play with the listener. There’s a certain innocence to “Yours to Keep,” a certain playfulness, that makes it such a great record. Indeed, why so serious, Strokes?

And now he’s fired his second solo shot, “Como Te Llama.”           

Think back to the old days, right after the dinosaurs, when bands like The Replacements, The Del Fuegos  and The Minutemen roamed the earth. Good, often great, sometimes mind-blowing rock-n-roll, no pretension, no bullshit. Who woulda thought that music like that would be hard to come by now? Yet it is. Thank the heavens for Albert. His songs have all the right touches, a bit of the Beach Boys here, a Tom Petty thing going on over there, a reggae feel on that part, and an obvious Strokes-sound overall, this is great music. Blows away crap like The Killers and whomever else calls itself  “rock-n-roll,” in that it’s smart, creative, unpredictable.

Dig this new record. Groove to “Won’t Get Fooled By This,” completely hummingly brilliant, or “GfC,” a seamless rock-out, or “In My Room,” with hooks galore, and see this ain’t some run-of-the-mill rock spew. Albert is not limited by what genre he’s supposed to be working in, which allows for a freedom, allows for great creativity. He even throws in “Spooky,” a kitchen-sink type song where the music grows and changes, enchanting, silly, and different. “Como” is well done, it’s playful, it’s deceptively simple, it grabs you. Lyrical content? Usual stuff, girls, love, whatever. But musically, you can tell Albert’s done the research, put the time in, yeah, he knows his shit. Certainly what you listen to infects what you create, and Albert mines all the right ores, the Velvets, REM, Gang of Four, Brian Wilson, and so on, to get his sound. Makes me wonder why there aren’t more great bands doing the same thing, as most sound like Pearl Jam or The Cars cover bands. A retro sound is great, sure, but you gotta have the RIGHT retro.

Yeah, Hammond is on the ball. He’s got the hair, the songwriting chops, and a well-placed sense of where rock should go. Nothing is more comforting and fun than music that stylistically connects great music forms from the past, creating a new, yet familiar sound. Stay the course, Albert.

And you, buy this record.

Author: Russell Davidson, CC2K Sports Editor

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