Simply put, there’s a reasonable amount of this album that I struggled to enjoy. Whether this is the vertigo-inducing guitar solo in Razor’s Edge, or the thumping cookie-cutter riffage of Caught By My Shadow, I couldn’t help thinking Albert Hammond Jr had cocked up his third studio album, aside of course from his further work with The Strokes. However, ignoring some musical faux pas (most unironically momentary, others more embedded) Momentary Masters is well worth your time, and as the summer comes to an end, you could do far worse than checking out some choice cuts from this work, whilst you try to avoid a serious case of FOMO from missing Reading for the umpteenth time.
Despite me reaching for the sick-bag during some of the frantic rollercoaster licks, there’s much to like here. Born Slippy, which opens the album has a summery jangle that sounds to me like a slightly less frenetic Bloc Party, or a decidedly less obnoxious 1975. In this track, Hammond’s strained vocals are at their best, as the intermittent rough-around-the-edges higher register supplements a faux-lazy delivery in the verses. Compare this to the uninspiring scuzz of Caught By My Shadow, and its safe to say that Hammond sings his best when he doesn’t seem to try too hard. Fortunately, the effortless intonations and arrangements that make tracks such as Don’t Think Twice so good are found throughout the album. However, often it seems like he can’t resist testing what seems to be a rather limited range, and the clear discomfort of choruses such as that of Losing Touch makes them seem to last an age.
Surely many of the reviews of this album will be preoccupied with the extent to which Hammond manages to detach himself from the coattails of The Strokes’ sonic blueprint. Whilst you could lament the inclusion of guitars (!) in Momentary Masters as being derivative, I’m not really sure what you would expect otherwise. The fact is there’s a lot of wiggle room in guitar-lead indie and Hammond’s work is tangibly different to The Strokes, and whilst there are a few solos or mundane basslines (see Drunched In Crumbs) that could be grafted into Angles, there’s a pleasing mix of the introspective and the giddy here which not only varies up the album as a work in itself but also carves out a different sound that separates Hammond from his previous employment. The slick and sexy Power Hungry, which reminds me more of Deborah Harry’s delivery in Rapture than anything involving Julian Casablancas, is a testament to the status of this album as satisfactorily unique. Needless to say, if this all sounds too much like Reptilia or Juicebox to you, I’m sorry Hammond didn’t decide to drop a techno album to really shake things up.
Overall, this is tight, well-executed guitar music from someone who has the experience to produce an album of this sort. Whilst it isn’t a classic and the dodgy vocal selections combined with a few malformed tracks towards the end constitute substantial gripes, Momentary Masters is well worth your time. Whilst The Strokes continue to tease with fleeting tour dates, Albert Hammond Jr has provided something to keep his market well and truly on the hook.