It’s very understandable that people are drawn to someone like The Strokes’ guitarist, Albert Hammond Jr. He’s a one of a kind musician. Packed to the brim with a wicked-fast guitar style, a simplistic lyrical approach reminiscent of The Velvet Underground, and a brow-raising attitude that almost holds a candle to Iggy and his Stooges. He’s surprisingly charming while still paying homage to the post-punk I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude made popular by the aforementioned influences (which, though not listed, does include The Ramones and Television). But of course, the question begs to be asked whether Hammond can actually maintain any sort of pose without the three other members of his outfit. Or better yet, can he pull off a live act by himself like the one that had past headlines claiming his previous band was the next savior of Rock n Roll? The answer, most certainly if you caught one of AHJ’s two shows in NYC, is abso-fucking-lutely.
The show was a whirlwind of equal parts energy and excitement—the kind that has his bassist fiddling with his sound while Hammond asks the audience if anyone gives a shit about it all being a little off. Interestingly enough, we, the audience, the near-violently packed Bowery Ballroom, nodded our heads and howled. Only to have Hammond yell, “well let’s play the next fucking song!” Then a girl in the front row hands Hammond an envelope, which I believe was a bright, bright pink. And as he struggles to put it in his clearly undersized vest pocket, he whispers into the mic that he’ll “probably go home and read it”—then he shoved it down the front end of his pants—cause he can, I guess.
You see, it’s no doubt that Hammond has got a good thing going. He seems like he’s really having fun up there, jumping around, shoving shit down his pants, singing about space and time travel. But this whole new album has me questioning his intentions with this band. The Strokes haven’t come out with an album since 2013. His side project hadn’t released anything since 2008. Was he just ready to give this another go? Are The Strokes done for good? Does he feel like he can’t break free of The Strokes’ guitarist title?
He named this band after himself. Which is a very bold, but also, a very symbolic move in regards to how he reveals himself to the world— it’s as if he’s saying “everything you hear is what I am comprised of. This is the real me, Albert Hammond Jr.” After all, you stamp your name on things you own whole-heatedly. But maybe this is just a desperate attempt at trying to bottle up that old feeling that made him feel like a 22 year-old again.
Regardless of what pours in and out of my head during the show, Hammond is a seasoned musician. And one like him is always fun to watch. Even if, say, the sound sucks or the band is having way more fun than they are concentrating on their instruments. I just hope the magic lasts for Albert Hammond Jr. After all, Casablancas seems way too preoccupied with Daft Punk and his side project The Voidz to wipe the dust off his leather jacket and resume his spotlight before it fades for good.