CD Review of Yours to Keep by Albert Hammond, Jr

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Yours to Keep
starstarstarstarno star Label: New Line Records
Released: 2007
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Taking the route that John Frusciante, James Iha, Stone Gossard and countless others have taken before him, the Strokes’ Albert Hammond, Jr. attempts to break out from his role as the guitarist in a popular rock band to explore and experiment with music that is more meaningful and personal to him with Yours to Keep.

Songwriting runs in the Hammond family. His father was a fairly successful singer-songwriter in the ‘70s who also penned hits for other artists, including “The Air That I Breathe” for the Hollies as well as the ungodly abomination “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” for the abortion of a pop group that was Starship (but we’ll try not to hold that against him too much) and Hammond, Jr. has been writing songs for the Strokes since their inception in the late ‘90s; they just never seem to make the album. But were the Strokes right in rejecting Hammond’s compositions? Well, yes and no, because while many of these songs might not fit on an album credited to the Strokes, the majority of them are superbly crafted pop tunes that any other band would be happy to call their own.

Some songs are more reminiscent of the Strokes than others; songs like “In Transit” and “101” were originally pitched to the Strokes before appearing on this album, so that only makes sense. Other songs, such as “Postal Blowfish” (which only appears on the American version of the record) might as well be Strokes songs, and they probably should have been when you consider how sickeningly mediocre First Impressions of Earth was.

Hammond, Jr. really proves his songwriting chops with songs like opener “Cartoon Music for Superheroes.” This cute lullaby would never work on a Strokes album, but it beautifully sets the tone for this record. The romantic ballad “Blue Skies” is another track that would never fit it on a Strokes record, but not only does it work great here, it’s probably the album’s best song. A timeless-sounding song that could’ve just been as easily released in 1967 as 2007, it’s one of those dreamy pop tunes that’ll have you swaying to the beat whether you want to or not.

Yours to Keep seems equally influenced by the artists that inspired the Strokes, such as the Stooges and the Cars, as well acts from the ‘60s and ‘70s that his father could have written for, such as the Turtles, the Troggs and Badfinger. Songs like “Holiday” and “Scared” share the common rhythm and tempo found on many songs by the Strokes with some added pop flavor put in as well in the form of quaint lyrics and simple-but-effective guitar solos (or, in the case of the infectious “Call an Ambulance,” whistling solos).

While comparisons to the Strokes are inevitable, Hammond finds a way out of the quite large shadow that his band has cast upon him with Yours to Keep by creating an original and thoroughly enjoyable record. If anything, the album’s brilliant combination of British Invasion influences and modern rock sensibilities should draw more comparisons to Oasis and other Brit Pop bands from the ‘90s than the hipster quintet from New York City. No wonder they love him in England so much.

~James B. Eldred