Category: Book Reviews

  • Reviews: Hedley, The Colour, Infradig, Jeff Queen, Nucleo Vega, Bob Cianci, Kevin Coggins, David Barrett

    Every month(ish), we recommend the most seriously awesome albums and tracks we had on repeat. We also watched an instructional vid and worked through some books. Goddamn, we are good drum fanatics.



    Music: Unbelievable. Here again is a group of Canadians colonizing the once-mighty shores of American rock. We’re not insecure or anything: It’s just that our northerly neighbors aren’t supposed to be this good, aren’t supposed to pop this hard. And the really painful part? Lead singer Jacob Hoggard—he of the envy-inducing pipes and electric stage presence—was actually a finalist on Canadian Idol (before, that is, he sobered up and asked to be voted off). Our American Idols are good only for bad Christmas albums. Okay, now we’re feeling insecure.

    Drumming: Chris Crippin plays punky pop beats that are adamantium solid but with plenty of satisfyingly jagged edges. Go get cut on the ride cymbal accents in “321.”

    The Straight Poop: I’ve said it before about other Canuck bands, but this time I really mean it: Hedley is better than Pamela Anderson wearing nothing but a hockey jersey and french kissing a beer bottle. 

    The Colour

    Between Earth & Sky

    Music: Despite that telltale letter u in the band’s name, The Colour is mercifully not from Canada. In fact, the fivesome hail from our very own Los Angeles—perennial site of numerous musical crimes and atrocities. These Colour fellows, though, are guilty only of cranking out excellent and inviting dirty-rock tunes. Not dirty sleazy, mind you. More like dirty mellow-sexy. Give a two-second listen to the seductive sounds of Wyatt Hull’s vocals, and you’ll see what I mean. 

    Drumming: Nathan Warkentin’s grooves are deep and dark, and it sounds like he’s playing something warm and vintage, an ancient Gretsch kit with beat-up heads and muddied cymbals. Beautiful. And dig on the perfect jangle banging in “Can’t You Hear It Call.”

    The Straight Poop: Between you and me, Between Earth & Sky is one of the best discs of the New Year. So please don’t tell any of those aging hipsters at Blender. They’ll just take all the credit.


    Clinical Indifference (the Psychology of Breathing)

    Music: My ears have begun bleeding. And I might be dying. But it’s a right of passage, a privilege really to experience Infradig’s mangle of acoustic and electronic instrumentals. There’s even something sonically voyeuristic about the whole affair. It’s kind of turning me on.

    Drumming: Joshua Caleb Green, a subtly stupendous shredding machine, manages to wrest rich drum sounds from what could have been a bunch of hermetic, hostile songs. First check out the buzzing beat and solo breaks in the title track, and then fast-forward to the tight double strokes in “Muttering/Shrapnel.” Drumming (and listening) on the edge, this is. And I’m not sure what will happen if you lose your balance.

    The Straight Poop: Don’t read too much into the disc’s title, because there’s nothing at all indifferent about the tunes—just 56.3 minutes of electro-rock guaranteed to shock even the most musically brain addled out of a boy-band coma. 

    Jeff Queen

    Playing With Sticks

    You’ve never been in better hands. Jeff Queen is a four-time world snare drum champion (as well as a former member of the esteemed Bluecoats and Velvet Knights drum corps), and in this must-have DVD he guides you through nearly four hours of essential playing techniques and slick stick tricks. That alone is pretty damn cool, of course. But the great part about Playing is that Queen is truly an excellent instructor, with the kind of soft voice and considerate demeanor you’d want and expect from perhaps a…umm…world-class proctologist (you know, someone who’s gentle with the hard stuff). Just a sample of what Queen crams in: proper grip and setup, sound production fundamentals, the Moeller stroke, the velocity stroke, polyrhythms, buzz control, hybrid diddles, backsticking, stick tosses, and solo composition. And before you start practicing, be sure to poke around the DVD’s extra features for extended solo examples and written-out exercises.  [Update 2022: you can now download this vid directly from Hudson for only $3.99. Click the link above.]

    Nucleo Vega

    Understanding Groove for Drum Set: Bridging the Gap Between Physical and Auditory Awareness

    It’s no secret that finding the groove is an ongoing, oftentimes frustrating journey, so let Nucleo Vega show your sticks the way. A thorough analysis of the entire concept of what it actually means “to groove,” his book essentially attempts to improve the consistency and deepen the feel of your playing. Chapters include exercises on beat placement and displacement, groove interpretation through language and shape (be sure to check out the handy diagrams), beat vocalizations (with a syllabic system derived from Indian tabla drumming), polytempo independence, and the role of the Moeller technique. 80 pages. Also includes a DVD and an 86-track CD.

    Bob Cianci

    Great Rock Drummers of the Sixties: Revised Edition

    If you can’t seem to get ’60s drummers out of your system, or if you just want to read more about what made those yesteryear powerhouses pound so good, then this is your book. First published almost 17 years ago, the revised edition includes all the players you’d expect (Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, Mitch Mitchell), all the players you’d want (Ginger Baker, Carmine Appice, Hal Blaine), and a whole bunch of players you might not have thought about in years (Dave Clark, Mickey Jones, Dennis Thompson). Yep, the kids might be older now, but they’re still all right. 223 pages. [Update 2022: click the link above for a 26-page preview in Google books.]

    Kevin Coggins & David Barrett

    Blues Drum Method: An Essential Study of Blues Drums for the Beginning to Advanced

    This book opens with a short historical overview of the blues, provides a few suggestions about getting the best sound from your instrument, and includes a brief guide to notation as well as a glossary of musical and drumming terms. As expected, though, most of the pages are devoted to bunches and bunches of traditional and modern blues beats—shuffles, ballads, swing feels, even some Latin-tinged varieties. The final chapter introduces build-ups and fills. Comes with a 47-track CD. And if you really get bitten by the blues bug, pick up the companion piece, Blues Drums Play-Along Trax, for more song-based practice. 56 pages.

  • Music Reviews: Franz Ferdinand, Augustana, Niacin, Clayton Cameron

    Every month(ish), we recommend the most seriously awesome albums and tracks we had on repeat. We also read a book this time. And even tried to play jazz with brushes!

    Franz Ferdinand

    You Could Have It So Much Better

    Music: Franz Ferdinand might have come together for the primary purpose of making girls dance, but the boys from Glascow got more than booties shaking when they released their self-titled debut album last year. Cookie-cutter bands everywhere quaked as the Scots effortlessly (even uninterestedly) conquered women and airwaves all across Europe and the States. A new era of music hip had begun, and fans loved Ferdinand for it. The boys’ tight pants, though, probably helped a bit. 

    Ferdinand returns with a disc that doesn’t fall to the sophomore curse. All the qualities that made the first album so refreshingly art-school-punk-cool—unique, prominent guitar parts, clever lyrics, and unusual melodies—are here, but the band stretches out a bit, assimilating more genres into their own style. Disco gets a new lease on life in “I’m Your Life,” and the standard, plaintive rock ballad becomes something you’ll actually want to hear in “Walk Away.” The Franz faithful should first check out “The Fallen”—which features one of the signature guitar licks that made “Take You Out” from the first album so infectious—and limber up the booty muscles for “Do You Want To.” Be prepared though: All the tunes feel a little more pop-radio friendly this time around. Or maybe pop-radio has now become a little more Franz friendly. 

    Great tunes aside, attitude is the most intriguing thing about Franz Ferdinand. The guys nearly named the new album the same as their first, changing only the color of the cover (can you imagine the ensuing confusion from purchasers and sellers alike—disorder, destruction, a new world order?), but they opted at the last minute for You Could Have It So Much Better. Is the title an ironic nod to their success? A sarcastic comment on the state of radio? Hmmm. The band steps back with a jaunty, haughty indifference that is, of course, very British but also just plain, well, smart. Buy their CD or not: They’ll still have a go playing pubs and wooing women and making better music than you could sell your soul for.

    Drumming: Paul Thomson, billed as the “best drummer in Glasgow,” isn’t your Gavin- Harrison-shredder-type, but he lays down good, solid, song-oriented drumming. You’re not going to find any licks to woodshed for weeks on end, but you’ll spend plenty of time trying to play so good in time. 

    The Straight Poop: Maybe we could indeed have it so much better than Ferdinand’s new effort. But you’re not likely to hear a hipper album this coming year. Sit back, watch the girls dance, and accept your assimilation. If you need me, I’ll be in the bathroom, squeezing a rolled up a sock into my tight pants. 


    All the Stars and Boulevards

    Music: This 4-piece group was officially together for all of two weeks before getting signed. Listen to a song—any song—and you’ll hear why: big hooks, thick guitar-scapes, rich piano noodlings, introspective lyrics. Yes, these are in a sense pop tunes (pop in that they are going to be extremely popular) but by no means bubblegum: You won’t be ashamed if someone sees them on your iPod. Just about every track could be released as a single, but if you’re new to the band and are in a particularly melancholy mood, give “Boston” a listen.

    Drumming: Justin South does own a ride cymbal, but it’s left abandoned and unloved on most of the record. He prefers instead the undefined wash of a big, ringy crash, and that’s cool with us: What’s in a ping anyway? The drumming here is all meat and potatoes—but it’s filet mignon and butter-soaked baked potatoes. Dig in.

    The Straight Poop: On the opening track, “Mayfield,” lead singer Dan Layus plaintively wonders, “Are we gonna’ make it?” Smile, boys. There’s a whole country full of college girls who know you already have. 



    Music: It’s been some time since we’ve had a bona fide drum god in our reviews. Light a candle, then, because Dennis Chambers is back and shredding with Niacin. The trio includes Billy Sheenan—who puts the word guitar in bass guitarist—and is completed by John Novello and his ridiculously hip Hammond B-3. The tunes are fast, loud, and so skillful that you’ll wonder how you’ve made it this far through life without them. The first cut is the aptly titled “Barbarian @ The Gate,” which knocks down your defenses (if you even had or wanted any) with a rapid flurry of tutti sixteenth-notes. Put on “No Shame” for a progressive funk fest that will clean out your system.

    Drumming: The disc clocks in at 60 minutes: That gives Chambers enough time to bust out a couple hundred thousand notes. With his foot. 

    The Straight Poop: If great drum music is sex, then Organik is sex and a sandwich.

    Clayton Cameron

    Brushworks: The New Language for Playing Brushes

    I had to chip away the dust from this gem of a book. It had long lain—forgotten or spurned—on our review shelves because we are an admittedly heavy-handed, tree-trunk-wielding bunch. 

    So we truly do understand what you’re thinking: “….Brushes?

    Now, don’t click away just yet, because we’re not going to give you the hard sell. It’s certainly possible to get away with being more of a brush bluffer than a brush player these days, but for those gigs when blast beats—or even some limp-wristed, tepid tapping with bundled rods—absolutely will not do, here’s how to shred on the softer side of drumming. 

    Clayton Cameron (a.k.a. Brush Master, King of the Brushes, Sir Brush-a-lot, and so on) guides you through all the delicate flutters and sensitive swirls. The book’s chapters move incrementally from the basics of holding brushes (there are eight different grips) to playing advanced and specialty strokes. Each brush movement is well diagrammed, and there are numerous examples that will test your skills. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, Chapter 7 offers up six solos—including the very challenging and syncopated “Just Duets”—for you to dazzle disbelievers with. And so that you know you are in good company, the final chapter breaks down the stylistic intricacies of brush (and drum) masters such as Papa Jo Jones, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Elvin Jones. 

    For your listening and learning pleasure, the included CD features Cameron demonstrating 99 examples from the book, a few of which are extended songs and solos that will have you burning through brushes like you do with your trusty 2Bs. Comprehensive and learner-friendly, Brushworks is an altogether excellent way to discover drumming’s lost art.

    And here’s the really cool part. Further confound the guitarists in your life by talking about a whole new set of brush-specific rudiments: the sweepalet, the sliddletap, the sliddlesweeptap, the parafriddle, the fleuruff, the flexamaque, and—my hands-down favorite—the enticingly scandalous parasliddlediddle.

    Mmmm. Sounds dirty.

  • Music Reviews: Jamiroquai, The Goons of Doom, Tony Verderosa

    Every month(ish), we recommend the most seriously awesome albums and tracks we had on repeat. We even read a book this time. Yay literacy.



    Music: It’s been four long years, but Jay Kay and his band of acid-jazz Brits are finally back. Guaranteed to blow out sound systems and dancing shoes everywhere, Dynamite delivers everything from the disco-flavored title track to the Sade-sounding “Talluah” to the inevitably funkified “Hot Tequila Brown.”

    Drumming: Drummer Derrick McKenzie and percussionist Sola Akingbola have been playing together for a decade, and you can hear it in their tight, complementary performance. On a disc loaded down every which way with deep grooves, “Starchild” is a surprise standout, showing it’s possible to funk with a four-on-the-floor bass drum and a simple 2 and 4 on the snare. And if you ever feel like blowing off steam, grab a cowbell and bang along with the rockingly fun “Black Devil Car.”

    The Straight Poop: Dust off your buffalo hat, and obey what Master Kay has to say: “Baby, you’ve got to rock the floor tonight.”

    The Goons of Doom

    Bikey Zombie

    Music: These Australian surf punks can hit a few more notes than the Sex Pistols did, and they’re almost as much fun. Fronted by the dyspeptic vocals of Vaughan Dead and Bang Bang Bunny Fang, the band sweats out tunes that are generally under three minutes long, usually peppered with profanity, and always chock full of attitude. Primp the mohawks and polish the cheek rings for “She Wore Rat Skin Boots” and “Blood on The Streets.” 

    Drumming: A ruffian called Cut-Throat Cowboy handles drum duties, and he might have picked up the sticks yesterday. Or maybe the day before. But that’s okay. Cowboy doesn’t have to ride fancy—or even steady—to guide this irreverent group. Forget for a moment groove, chops, and meter. Sit back and get a dose of loose, loud, and crazy.

    The Straight Poop: The Goons remind you how to use the business end of your middle finger. Point it proudly.

    Tony Verderosa

    The Drummer’s Guide To Loop-Based Music: The Essential Reference For Techno Drum Styles

    If you think that jungle beats have something to do with the Amazon, pick up Tony Verderosa’s comprehensive gem to techno drumming. A reference work rather than a straight instruction manual, the book comprises three reviewable sections—styles, interviews, and gear. Each of techno’s “rudimentary” rhythms—Trance, Think, Apache, Amen, and so on—is notated here, and you can hear each performed on an included one-hour CD.

    Once you’re plugged into the basics, advance your skills by sneaking a peek behind the processors of e-luminaries such as Roy “Futureman” Wooten and JoJo Mayer. The gear analysis quickly gets you up and grooving, and a handy glossary is provided so that you can talk the talk.

    Bonus goodies on the second CD include a free version of Acid XPress (for making and mixing your own loops) and performance pieces featuring Vederosa and his fleet-of-hand playing/sampling. Watch his sticks, wonder at the sounds—welcome to the 21st century.