It’s easy to look at Act Like a Musician and snigger just a little bit. The first episode—bringing together That ’70s Show’s Danny Masterson and Albert Hammond Jr. of the Strokes—feels like something just emerged from a time capsule, a hopeful missive from the past to remind us that humanity can be wrong.
Back in 2001 teaming these two up would have made perfect sense. Masterson was stealing scenes, and there was no telling that Jackie Burkhart and Kelso would be the ones to blossom into movie stars while Hyde would be left scraping together one-off appearances on already-cancelled basic cable shows.
Nor did anyone know that the Strokes would follow Weezer’s “two and out” strategy and resign their third best guitarist to a solo career peddling mid-tempo art-pop that Julian Casablancas must judge as falling short of B-side status. It’s a far cry from those heady days in the early 2000s when a young Hammond was able to tell a pre-The Game Neil Strauss that he ate only two things for lunch—“breakfast or sushi”—without sounding self-parodic.
And it’s those days that the two reflect upon: “We met, what 14, 13 years ago?” asks Masterson, just before dredging up his wife Bijou Phillips so she can “accidentally” wander into shot, her first onscreen appearance in yonks. “Yeah, long time ago,” says Hammond, after a pause.
It’s pretty miserable: two people nobody normal could possibly care about anymore talking about themselves. Masterson working hard to control his excitement that the studio that he built to play Oasis and Strokes covers now, after all these years, contained the real thing. And Hammond, these days with no pressing reason to turn down an AOL webseries, hesitantly but politely joining the mutual appreciation society, praising Masterson on his turn in Beethoven’s 2nd.
When the two finally come together to jam—because that is the purpose of the series, with Josh Charles, Jason Lee, Kevin Drew from Broken Social Scene, and Midlake down for future episodes—you half expect them to launch into something from 2001’s Is This It. But instead we get one of Hammond’s compositions. It disappoints in comparison but is free from the depressive reminder of how much time has passed.
Photos via Act Like a Musician/YouTube | Remix by Max Fleishman