BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER Perhaps the meanest thing you could say about Yours To Keep, the solo debut by Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., is that it’s all craft and no personality. This is often the case when a background member of a popular band steps into the foreground with a solo project, armed with long-dormant songs but minus the compelling narrative a band like the Strokes has worked so hard and long to establish. And because we know so much — too much, really — about Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas and so little about Albert Hammond Jr., the songs on Yours To Keep seem in search of an identity and a context beyond the sum and essence of Hammond’s eminently tasteful record collection.
At the same time, the songs on Yours To Keep are so catchy and foot-tapping, you have to wonder why hell these songs didn’t make up the bulk of the last, and weakest, Strokes album.
Tuesday night at the TLA the haystack-haired Hammond rendered such quibblings moot with an impeccable set of hellfire rock n’ roll and head-bobbing power-pop. Backed by the equally hirsute members of opening act and fellow New York garage-rockers The Mooney Suzuki, Hammond recreated the album’s dense web of guitars and finely-tuned sonics with remarkable precision, and, feeding off the crowd, adrenalized abandon. Hammond’s pet sounds are very similar to to the Strokes’ celebrated New York rock, and as such they often find a common ground between kicky new wave pop and the careening rockism of the Velvet Underground and Television at their most jamtastic — think Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers covering New Order. With only an album’s worth of songs to draw from, Hammond padded his short but sweet hour-long set with well-chosen covers such as Guided By Voices “Postal Blowfish” and Frank Black’s “Old Black Dawning.” But more than the songcraft and the precision of the execution, what Hammond delivered Tuesday was the raw, raucous spectacle of five hairy guys stacking locomotive rhythms and piles and piles of clean, ringing guitars into an unstoppable hallelujah chorus of New York rock. Amen, brothers. GRADE: A