A Stroke played in St. Paul Thursday night. A Stroke! In St. Paul! There was no way I was missing that. Albert Hammond Jr., the one with the afro-mullet, came to Station 4 to showcase his winsome little between-Strokes-projects record Yours to Keep.
Station 4 is no stranger to mullets—Winger is playing there this month—but I’m fairly confident a Downtown Mullet of Albert Hammond Jr.’s stripe rarely darkens its door. The blue-collar, heavy-metal hangout has gotten by on hair metal and cheap beer for the last twenty years, but it's decided to give this indie thing a try—because hey, indie fans drink beer too. It was apparent that most of the kids in attendance, decked in ironic T-shirts and tight jeans, hadn’t been to a show in Lowertown before. They walked past the door as if in a daze, murmured apologies for not knowing where the place actually was, and once inside, they wandered around with their PBR tall-boys as if they still couldn’t believe it: A Stroke! In St. Paul!
Hammond Jr.’s band sports afro mullets too (well, maybe the bassist’s hairdo was a little wavy), and the collective clearly takes its time signature and guitar tone cues from His Strokeness. Hammond Jr. and his lead guitarist wove together Commodore 64 guitar lines over a throbbing bassline and backbeat. Sound familiar? Well, they started off with the two most Strokes-y songs on the record, “Everyone Gets a Star” and “In Transit.” At the end of the show, they closed with the third and fourth most-Strokes-sounding songs, “Scared,” and “Hard to Live in the City.” This could be the least threatening side project of all time. Julian must have rubbed Hammond Jr.’s shaggy head in approval when he heard the record. “Atta boy, ‘bert!”
Albert's songs are all pretty good, and they sounded good in the Station 4 cave. To be fair, Yours to Keep, while very Strokes side-project-y, does have its own vibe. While The Strokes often sound like a soundtrack to the ideal Sophia Coppola movie, Albert solo sounds like a soundtrack to the ideal O.C. episode. The music is more upbeat, sunnier, and with his sweet, young Wayne Coyne vocal, he says stuff Julian would never say, like “I miss you already,” or “She just wanted to be friends.”
All told, a fantastic hour of entertainment. I would come to Lowertown to see indie rock again. Definitely. But don’t worry, I wouldn’t expect to see a Stroke.
A Stroke! In St. Paul!