(Red Bull Records, out now)
As Albert Hammond Jr is mostly known for his day job as rhythm guitarist for The Strokes it may come as a surprise to the casual listener this is actually his fourth full length solo album. However, you can be forgiven for being unaware, since they have come out sporadically over the last 12 years, the most recent being 2015’s Momentary Masters.
His latest release has been heralded as his most personal album yet, since it is inspired by the lost twin his mother miscarried while, unbeknownst to her at the time, Albert continued to grow inside her. His twin was to be called Francis and Hammond Jr’s alter-ego for this album is also called Francis in homage.
Such inspiration might suggest a pretty reflective or depressing outing, but that could not be further from the truth. Many of the songs are guitar driven upbeat affairs; you would be hard pressed to realise the record came from such painful family history just from listening. Saying that, the song that most directly draws on the story of his miscarried twin, Muted Beatings, while a bouncy synthpop number, does have a decidedly melancholic air to it, particularly in its heartfelt chorus.
It is this track that also marks the greatest departure from the sound you would expect from a member of The Strokes. Unlike his first solo outing, Yours to Keep, which deliberately steered away from his regular gig and took a somewhat Beach Boys/60s pop direction, this LP very much embraces the sounds of his main band and wears its garage rock influences on its sleeve. This is particularly noticeable in the opening two tracks DvsL and Far Away Truths which could have easily found a place on one of the group’s first two records. This is not to slight these tracks though. Both are well crafted garage rock anthems. So is screaMER, a pure Stooges number complemented with Sympathy for the Devil-like backing vocals.
The album as a whole generally presents a strong set of songs but not everything works. Set to Attack comes off as a fairly pedestrian indie track with a solo in the middle that fails to light the song up, although the guitar outro redeems it somewhat.
With Francis Trouble, Hammond Jr has not reinvented himself or veered off into pastures new but he has delivered an often raucous, frequently exhilarating sugar-rush of a record which enjoyably mixes the garage rock revival and post-punk sounds of which he is renowned for.