Albert Hammond Jr – ‘Francis Trouble’ Review

One of modern indie’s most iconic guitarists finds new life in his family history

Near-death experiences. The oblivion of heartbreak. Getting royally, transcendentally high. Musicians have long cited numerous different life events as provoking them to really consider who they are. Albert Hammond Jr’s own catalyst is slightly more unusual than that. In 1979, his mother miscarried his twin brother Francis, unaware at the time that Albert was still growing inside her. A few months later, he was born alongside a lone reminder of the baby he’d briefly shared her womb with – a fingernail.

The guitarist had long been aware of that first half of the story, but only recently discovered the existence of that small piece of his sibling. He says the news helped him find his “lost persona” in Francis – and later become more himself – and it was after that that his fourth solo album really began to take shape.

What is that lost persona? From the sound of ‘Francis Trouble’, it belongs to a hopeless romantic, a straight-talking deep-thinker, and an adventurer driven by lust, among other things. “I saw you as someone I wanted to trust / I saw you as everyone I wanted to f**k,” Albert barks on the frenetic surf-rock of ‘ScreaMER’. On ‘Strangers’ he’s more contemplative, thinking aloud, “How strange the feeling to be strangers / Who strain for feeling”.

Despite a situation some might consider sad or dark being the glue behind it, ‘Francis Trouble’ is a bright blast of radiant, prismatic indie rock. More surprisingly still, it’s Albert’s most fun record yet, hurtling along on his trademark zipping guitar lines. It has its gloomier moments, like the jagged ‘Tea For Two’, but for the most part the mood is set to exuberant. Musically, the aforementioned ‘Strangers’ sounds like a surreal stroll through The Beatles’ Pepperland, while ‘DvsL’ is a howling, high-spirited jaunt.

Over the years, Albert has taken on a few personas: the impossibly cool New Yorker with The Strokes, the cinematic indie sweetheart on his 2006 debut ‘Yours To Keep’, for example. As it turns out, larger-than-life, playful Albert is the one that suits him best.

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