While the other Strokes have been enjoying downtime since coming off the road last fall, Albert Hammond Jr. hasn't had a break. The guitarist, 26, spent the past few months supporting his solo debut, Yours to Keep, which came out March 6th. "We calculated that I've played a show every 2.4 days," he says. "The Strokes don't even play that often." A tour with Bloc Party, as well as his own headlining gigs, have helped buoy U.S. sales of the disc past 14,000 copies in its first month – impressive, considering that solo projects from anyone other than a band's frontman aren't normally this well received. Or this good. Yours to Keep brims with sweetly roughhewn tunes that balance Hammond's obvious debt to Strokes songwriter Julian Casablancas with echoes of the Beach Boys, Tom Petty and solo John Lennon. "I wanted the album to be like, "Here's a half-hour of what was in my head – like an opium dream," says Hammond, who started writing these tracks in 2004 and recorded them a year later with producer Greg Lattimer and a pair of longtime friends – drummer Matt Romano and bassist Josh Lattanzi – in New York. At first, Hammond wasn't sure he'd release it. "I didn't tell anyone until it was almost done," he says the day after a show at South by Southwest that rivaled the Strokes' early high-voltage performances. "I'm shy like that. I just wanted to complete it so I'd be able to write better songs for my friends to hear."
"It's a very strong record from somebody you know but don't know," says ex-Smashing Pumpkin James Iha, who released Yours to Keep on his Scratchie label. "He's his own artist, as opposed to 'that guy from that band.' And I think people really root for him."
This story is from the April 19th, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone.
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