I'm actually unsure what the title of Albert Hammond, Jr.'s new album Momentary Masters means. I've searched the internet for an answer, and I'm sure there is one out there, but it hasn't been immediately forthcoming. So I've decided to stick to my own interpretation, which is thus: using music, Hammond is able to arrest a moment, to remove it from context and make it his. What I'm trying to say is that, when listening to this album, I was often captivated to the point of losing track of whatever else I happened to be doing, sidetracked by just how raw and compelling this album is.
The album starts with "Born Slippy," both lyrically and musically memorable. The instrumentals are simple, stripped down to just a few elements, and they are all the more catchy for it. And the chorus is unforgettable, with Hammond's voice crooning, "There are more of us than there are of them/Every time you stop, I begin." This lyricism continues throughout the album. In "Power Hungry," a song with anger simmering beneath the surface, Hammond sings, "I thought I belonged to something/Walking upstairs gets me down." Hammond's voice is gentle but, at times, surprisingly versatile. In his cover of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," he channels Dylan's vocal patterns so perfectly that I noted the similarities before I realized the song was a cover. This shows his attention to detail and reminds us of his strength as a vocalist.
It's hard to choose a bright point to highlight in this album, especially since the songs vary so much in sound and mood. In "Coming to Getcha," Hammond sings almost as if threatening or teasing the listener, but then his voice travels upward for an earnest, powerful chorus. "Drunched In Crumbs," which uses the same guitar riff as parts of the song "Human Sadness" by Strokes bandmate Julian Casablanca, is high-strung and anxious. "Razors Edge" is even more frantic, only softened by an aching guitar solo. "Touch" is fuzzy and regretful, embodying nostalgia. "Now that we're not perfect, we have to be good," Hammond sings. "Now that we're not perfect, we're misunderstood."
There's something terribly honest about this album, something painful. It's in the lyrics, which are consistently moving. It's the simplicity of the music and the restraint of the instrumentals; even at their most frantic, their most feverish, they hold back, making the listener reach for the music in return and creating a symbiotic relationship. Yet the album also thrusts back against the pain, fighting it off. Thats' what this album felt like, to me anyway: fighting, maybe losing, and fighting again anyway.