The Strokes haven’t been the best of friends in recent years, despite the underrated Comedown Machine of 2013, which was followed by a lengthy silence and Julian Casablancas’ solo project with The Voidz. Hammond Jr. hasn’t ventured into solo territory since 2008’s ¿Cómo Te Llama? and his work is one of the more underrated extra-curricular Strokes activities. Momentary Masters is no different, it lives within the confines of indie-pop, but has some of the more ragged edges that the Strokes lent on with ‘Juicebox’ or ‘New York City Cops’. In fact, Momentary Masters is the stepping stone of a record that First Impressions of Earth should have been.
‘Caught By My Shadow’ reeks of the quick pace of ‘Juicebox’. The guitarwork on ‘Caught…’ is some of the best on Momentary Masters, it sounds like the youthful, quick beginnings of the Strokes, bundled with an expansion into synths, which is what makes this record the step-forward that the Strokes needed. The lyrics don’t always match the fantastic instrumentation, where Hammond Jr. resorts to common opposites ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’ and simple simile in ‘saw her eyes, blue as the naked skies’. ‘Coming Getcha’ on the other hand, is perfect for both lyrics and instrumentation. A venture into a synth-led track is bolstered by moody guitars and Hammond Jr.’s best vocal performances. He uses the same vocal capture as Casablancas, where when he goes into his upper registers the recording crackles with intensity. He sings ‘She never made it back, she’s stuck in transit’ with the same desperation the Strokes used to perform with.
The reason ‘Momentary Masters’ works to well is that Albert Hammond Jr. is the most underrated Stroke and evidently the one who pursued their peppy, power-pop beginnings and their most successful territories. ‘Drunched In Crumbs’ could easily have slotted amongst the Strokes’ finer work, coupling lightning-quick drums, a clean but breathtakingly-amazing guitarline and vocals that sound like they are on the verge of hysteria. Sure, the lyrics aren’t perfect, and song titles like ‘Side Boob’ with lyrics that don’t even reference the titular breast can be somewhat off-putting. But the attention to detail when it comes to instrumentation brings back memories of early-00s NYC punk and converse dirtied-up-on-purpose.
‘Losing Touch’ (no reference to fellow New Yorkers LCD Soundsystem) takes time to deliver the killer chorus, but when it does, Hammond Jr. easily matches Casablancas’ shoutier moments. The lyrics are dark too, from the ‘carved your confusion into my arm / left with a contusion and a bill for the scars’ and ‘Happy here? The rest’s a wreck’. Similarly dark is the ‘Welcome To Japan’-aping ‘Power Hungry’, where Hammond Jr. sings ‘But if you’re pleasantly drunk you can’t hear a sound’. Considering his problems in the last few years with drugs, it’s hardly surprising that Hammond Jr.’s record is an album of direct confession and getting his demons out of his system.
If Momentary Masters leans on The Strokes too heavily, it only leans on their best moments. It takes some of the Is This It desperation, Comedown Machine‘s funkier moments and Room On Fire‘s refined hits. Even if the Strokes don’t decide to keep it all together, there’s a good chance that Hammond Jr. will do just fine on his own.