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INDIE ROCK | Choice

You'll forget all about his other band

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July 29, 2008

Albert Hammond Jr.

¿Cómo Te Llama? (Black Seal)

ESSENTIAL "G Up"

Perhaps you made the same mistake I did and had your eye on the wrong guy in the Strokes: lead singer Julian Casablancas, right? Well, you should have been watching rhythm guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., who's become a dynamic tunesmith in his own right. Since the Strokes' last effort, 2006's ho-hum "First Impressions of Earth," Hammond has broken out with two solo albums, easily besting what his band had been working on. His debut, "Yours to Keep," shot out of the barrel last year with a heady rush of hooks, eager to prove Hammond was worthy of a place in the sun. His new sophomore album, "¿Cómo Te Llama?" (which translates to "What's your name?" in shoddy gringo Spanish), is a different beast, though. It's full of musical trapdoors that drop you into a fun house of shape-shifting arrangements ("Lisa") and frenetic melodies ("G Up"). Working more closely with his band, Hammond has given his songs more dimension, and the ambition - from a seven-minute instrumental called "Spooky Couch" to the addition of strings on a few songs - paid off. Lyrically, the album comes off underwritten, more elliptical than revelatory (sample song title: "Feed Me Jack Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Peter Sellers"). But the melodies speak for themselves, especially on "Victory at Monterey," whose chorus ricochets with warped guitars over a murky bass line. Who knows when the Strokes will return, but with Hammond on the loose, we won't prod them. [James Reed]

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