Slouching toward irrelevance

Albert Hammond Jr., Paradise Rock Club, June 14, 2007
By MATT ASHARE  |  June 18, 2007
inside_albert
Albert Hammond Jr.

Albert Hammond Jr. may come from money, but he also comes from music. His Gibraltar-born father had some minor successes on his own as a singer-songwriter in the ’60s, and many more major successes when artists like the Hollies covered his “The Air That I Breathe.” Later on, he teamed up with song doctor Diane Warren to write the Starship hit “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” His son must be very proud. Of course, his son is best known as the diminutive, big-haired guitarist in the once ultra-hip NYC fivesome the Strokes. But it’s possible, if not plausible, that the junior Hammond, who headlined the Paradise last Thursday as a solo artist, might have had a shot at a career in music even without the Strokes, who were born when the guitarist met singer Julian Casablancas at the elite Swiss boarding school Institut Le Rosey.

But enough history. For all the excitement the Strokes generated back in 2001 with their Velvetsy The Modern Age EP (Beggars Banquet) and their more expansive but still very NYC garage-rock major-label debut, Is This It (RCA), they haven’t exactly lived up to their early promise. Yeah, they’re a big draw in Europe and, especially, the UK. And they’ve yet to experience a complete commercial or artistic meltdown. But in the wake of 2006’s First Impressions of Earth (RCA) — an album that debuted at the top of the UK charts but didn’t come close to selling the 500,000 units required for RIAA gold certification here in the US — the band seemed increasingly to be slouching toward irrelevance. Indeed, Hammond Jr.’s solo disc, Yours To Keep, was released way back in October in the UK and didn’t come out until five months later here in the US, where the New Line imprint Scratchie picked it up. Perhaps if those packed early Strokes shows at clubs like T.T. the Bear’s Place hadn’t created such a buzz, then none of this would matter. But it was hard not to note how relatively sparse and quiet the Paradise crowd was, or that from the top balcony it seemed noticeably thinner for Hammond than for his shaggy tourmates, the Dead Trees (formerly Furvis), who were making their triumphant return home.

Not that there was anything wrong with Hammond’s set. Backed by an able line-up (it included Boston bassist Josh Lattanzi and guitarist Steve Schiltz of Longwave) that did most of the heavy lifting, Albert showed off his well-arranged if unexceptional solo material and did his best to bring a bit of charisma to the proceedings. In the end, though, it all seemed a bit pat, with none of the danger or the dark allure that Casablancas exudes as a frontman. And it’s always a bad sign when a nostalgic cover — in this case the Cars tune “Don’t Cha Stop” — is what brings the crowd to life.

Related: Round-up, On the racks: October 24, 2006, Albert Hammond Jr., More more >
  Topics: Live Reviews , Entertainment, Music, Diane Warren,  More more >
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