Monday was one of those times where you work two hours longer than you thought you would, and then get home to find out you have to head back downtown to do a review at Venue in 40 minutes.
Because of that, I had to sacrifice seeing the opener, Rathborne, to the gods of “lying around in my underwear, eating dinner like a filthy animal. So when I arrived at Venue, I made it about 15 minutes before Albert Hammond Jr. and his band took the stage. Being a Monday, the crowd was pretty small, and when the lights went down and ‘Are You Ready for the Sex Girls’ by Gleaming Spires came on, I felt like I could properly answer the question posed to the crowd at the beginning of the set:
“Anyone else confused by this venue?” Yes. Yes I am.
Like the majority of people, I know Hammond Jr. best through his role as the Guitarist/Back-up Vocalist for The Strokes and when I saw that he’d released a solo album during the gap time between Strokes’ albums, I felt like I needed to pick it up. Yours To Keep has a lot of the sound and feel that Hammond Jr. adds to The Strokes (‘Everyone Gets A Star’, and ‘In Transit’ for example), as well as stretching outside of the norm with songs like ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘Postal Blowfish’. ¿Como Te Llama? followed suit for the most part but with more movement from what I like to think of as his signature sort of sound. Now, back with a new EP, AHJ, Hammond Jr. seems to be back on track as far as his solo project goes.
The night opened with two songs from Yours To Keep; ‘Holiday’ was first, with a popping bass drum, that made for an easy transition into the set, followed by ‘Scared’ and its clock-second-hand, metronome clicking keeping the beat. ‘Cooker Ship’ is one of the songs off of the new EP and it retains remnants of the old albums/work from The Strokes but the singing style is quite different. ‘GFC’ was one of two songs played from ¿Como Te Llama? (the other being ‘Victory At Monterey’) and apparently stands for Grand Father Clock but for aesthetic reasons is abbreviated.
Because that’s cooler. You dummy.
‘Victory At Monterey’ is a bass heavier song and is one from the album that really stands out as far as a different sound goes. It also gives Hammond Jr.’s voice a bit more time to shine with the lack of guitar for the majority of the song. Another song from AHJ, ‘Carnal Cruise’, has a lot of life in it, being one of the faster paced songs, which was followed up with ‘Hard to Live In The City’ from Yours To Keep which is probably the song I’d send someone if they asked what the band sounded like. It just seems like an anthem for the album.
Then all of a sudden there was a solo section for no reason, followed by a metal section for no reason which immediately went into ‘Everyone Gets A Star’ from Yours To Keep. It was kind of weird but when followed up with, a few lines leading into a joking “You ever stalked a girl?”, it seems pretty normal.
Though apparently “fucked up last night”, ‘St. Justice’ from the new EP seemed to go off without a hitch before they played ‘In Transit’ (another from Yours To Keep) which is probably my favourite song off the album. It’s kind of an unfair song to pick since it sounds so similar to The Strokes, who I do love, but I feel like it just shows how much influence Hammond Jr.’s sound really affects The Strokes as a whole. One young lady seemed to agree, as this was the song that she decided to pull out the big sign for. I have no idea what was emblazoned on her banner but since I don’t think I’ve ever seen a home-made sign outside of a WWE match, I’ll assume it said “Hammond Jr. 3:16”.
‘101’ of Yours To Keeps, ‘Strange Tidings’ ofAHJ and ‘In My Room’ of ¿Como Te Llama? kept the set going strong and just as the next song was being introduced, the drummer seemed to stop caring and decided it was time to play ‘Lisa’, another from ¿Como Te Llama?. ‘Postal Blowfish’ is so different from the majority of Hammond Jr.’s solo material that, at first, I thought the song might be a cover. With a much more distorted sound and a totally different style from songs like ‘In Transit’ or ‘Hard To Live In The City’ it’s a refreshing song to hear. ‘Rude Customer’ is the last song from the new EP and seems to be the most popular of the album. At times it’s got a bouncy feel that’s really similar to a lot of the material done by The Thermals and that is very, very okay. The set closed with a cover of ‘Last Caress’, which I don’t think I ever would’ve guessed I’d hear that night but a cover is always cool to hear as a set-closer.
And with that, the band left the stage and they turned on the music, leaving a lot of people to think they were finished playing (myself included) but thankfully they came back out for a two song encore of ‘The Boss Americana (¿Como Te Llama?) and ‘Blue Skies’ (Yours To Keep), which was played by Hammond Jr. without the rest of the band.
I feel like a lot of my review is unfair because of all the comparisons I’m making but like I wrote up above, it’s mostly because of Hammond Jr.’s style and sound. When listening to his solo albums or seeing him play live, it really puts into perspective how much of the way that The Strokes sound really comes from the way that Hammond Jr. plays and the kinds of distortion he uses. So hopefully this isn’t taken as a huge wank-fest over The Strokes that completely overshadows the solo work of Albert Hammond Jr. because it’s really just a testament to how he can nearly pull off the sound of a whole band as just one member of said band.
I really quite like Yours To Keep and ¿Como Te Llama?, and this show rekindled my interest in hearing them again. I’m kind of disappointed that I completely missed out on Rathborne but just seeing Albert Hammond Jr. play was worth it all on its own.