ALBERT HAMMOND, JR, Village Underground – Evening Standard, 16 May 2014

When you’re the guitarist in a band that hasn’t played live since 2011 and has seemed for years to be on the verge of splitting, you need to find some way to pass the time. For Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes, it used to be hard drugs — crack, heroin, the lot. But these days he prefers more wholesome pursuits.

“Sorry, I zoned out for a second. I’ve been meditating a lot,” he said here.

More appealingly for the rest of us, there’s also been time for a tentative solo career. This show came at the end of a two-week UK tour promoting an EP that came out last autumn.

With none of the pressure for a smash that comes with his main band, it meant he could cut loose with some punk covers, play his instrument when he felt like joining the two other guitarists, and display a smart ear for a light, zingy pop tune.

Unlike some more drastic side-projects, tracks from the AHJ EP and two earlier solo albums showed strong similarities with his day job. Standouts in Transit and St Justice joined tight rhythm guitar to a high, melodic lead topline. His competent but unremarkable voice lacked the lazy menace of Strokes leader Julian Casablancas but showed more individuality on Cooker Ship’s sudden burst of a chorus.

Most importantly, he seemed to be enjoying himself — not something that can always be said when the old gang get together.