on 5 November 2013
A very welcome return to the scene from the sometime Strokes rhythm-guitarist, who here storms back into action with the single 'St. Justice' and (sort-of) 'Rude Customer', both shining examples of what he does best, and further signs (for me) that he should once again take centre stage as the Strokes lead guitarist if they are to rediscover their mojo. 'St. Justice' is his first out-and-out grown-up love-ballad (any who have seen the accompanying steamy official video will attest to this!), and is 3 minutes of surging, intricate beauty, one of his best, up there with 'In Transit', '101' and 'GfC'. 'Rude Customer' is a corker, rip-roaring through less than 2 1/2 minutes of mad, frenetic guitar-work with an urgency that has been missing from a lot of modern rock music, let alone the Strokes recent contributions.
My only complaint is that it is too short! I feel that is a judgement that could be laid to bare against all the songs here, even 'St. Justice' itself - it is great, but the whole thing feels a little underwhelming, maybe even underambitious. Does Albert think we don't want to hear more from him? He's put out two cracking albums, so he definitely has the track-record to go the whole hog, and more than enough ideas, but with this five-tracker it just feels like he sells himself short a bit. It's great, great to hear anything from the Strokes group, but the other songs, 'Strange Tidings', 'Carnal Cruise' and 'Cooker Ship', all feel a bit spare, a bit too stripped-down, finger-picky guitar-based, not enough crunching, cascading chords, like on previous LPs.
So, my overall verdict: a solid performance - and 'St. Justice' and 'Rude Customer' are as good as anything he has ever done, if not better - but it is too short, and not sweet enough. Sad to say, the feeling is a bit of 'Is that it?, maybe a further counterpoint along with 'Comedown Machine' to the Strokes barnstorming debut of 'Is This It'.