¿Como Te Llama?
Well, who would’ve seen this coming? While the rest of The Strokes doze in the poppy field (or quaff cauffeee in Manhattan) it appears Albert Hammond Jr is skipping down the yellow brick road to Oz. His debut solo album, 2006’s ‘Yours To Keep’, was a bit unkempt and introspective, as if he was being careful not to pose any threat to the status of The Mothership. But as the band relax, it seems Hammond has done what Graham Coxon did with ‘Happiness In Magazines’ (albeit after leaving Blur): stopped apologising for going it alone and made a gloriously freewheeling guitar-pop album.
‘¿Como Te Llama?’ translates as ‘Llama orgasm’ or, more accurately, ‘What’s your name?’ or even more accurately ‘How do you call yourself?’ [Well, almost… – Spanish Grammar Ed], a question Hammond seems to be asking himself. This album suggests he’s part-Tom Petty, part-Elliott Smith but still very much a Stroke. In fact, much of it yells at his bandmates, ‘Remember when we were good?!’ The lo-fi meets new wave feel of ‘Is This It?’ is the starting point, Hammond distorting his voice Casablancas-style throughout, even recreating riffs from ‘Hard To Explain’ and ‘Someday’ (on ‘Bargain Of The Century’ and ‘G Up’ respectively). The Strokes’ touchstones are also evident: ‘GFC’ is a scuffed Cars song, ‘The Boss Americana’ is The Knack on skunk.
However, blessed with a confident band including US alt-rock stalwarts Josh Lattanzi (bassist with Ben Kweller and The Lemonheads) and Marc Eskenazi (guitarist with The Mooney Suzuki), Albert here also shows willingness to take risks, all of which pay off handsomely. ‘Victory At Monterey’ sounds like Spiller’s ‘Groovejet’ crossed with The Breeders’ ‘Cannonball’, ‘Rocket’ is the Marc Bolan song Hammond’s hair always promised and ‘Borrowed Time’ is a sensation: establishing a sparse reggae rhythm, it then presses the accelerator for its beautifully melodic chorus, which simply goes, “Oo-oo-oooh/Aa-aa-aaah” like all good choruses should.
The only criticism is that the lyrics fail to make the impact implied by titles like ‘Feed Me, Jack; Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love’. That aside, this is an unexpected delight – if the next Strokes record comes anywhere near close, we won’t be disappointed.