Tag: Dennis Chambers

  • Music Reviews: Fivespeed, CBFL, Hard-Fi

    Every month(ish), we recommend the most seriously awesome albums and tracks we had on repeat.


    Morning Over Midnight

    Music: This Phoenix-based band has shared the stage with Breaking Benjamin and other alum from two Warped Tours, so we know they can rock out. Take for example Morning’s opening track, “Fair Trade”—loud, crunchy, and cool. Vocalist Jared Woosley, though, sometimes gets a tad angsty-tender (damn it, real men don’t cry), particularly on the ballads “Misery Loves Company” and “Blame It on You.” But he saves face—and gets a few make-up points—for adopting a Gavin Rossdale–like howl on the excellent tune “Lost Vegas.” 

    Drumming: Shane Addington is by no means the second coming of Thomas Lang, but he well serves each song in a quietly smashing way. Fond of sloshy, open hi-hats on most of the album, he gets a hip and tight sixteenth-note groove going on “Wait Forever.” Check it out.

    The Straight Poop: If you’re looking for grinding guitars and catchy choruses, Fivespeed takes you where you want to go. Just watch those downshifts.

    Chambers, Berlin, Fiuczynski, Lavitz

    Boston T Party

    Music: Dennis Chambers can play anything, even simple(r) stuff, which is sometimes hard to believe given all the notes he usually beats out. On his latest outing, accompanied by Jeff Berlin on bass, Dave Fiuczynski on guitar, and T Lavitz on keys, the heavyweight stickman pulls his punches, letting the rest of the band take most of the licks. Even right from the opening track, the enticingly titled “D’funk’d,” Chambers holds back, hammering some straight quarter-notes on the hi-hat. And it still sounds great. Besides the usual fusion fare (which is tasty), the foursome also serve up a playful plate of American roots music with “I Hate The Blues … (But Here’s One Anyway).” 

    Drumming: What’s black and blue and whimpers in a corner? Your bashed-up ego after trying to play the ghost-note grooves on “Deff 184.”

    The Straight Poop: No, you probably won’t ever be this good. But at least you got that GED to fall back on.


    Stars of CCTV

    Music: Americans were still recovering from that whole Beatles thing when Coldplay hit, and now we’ve got to contend with this cheeky bunch of Brits. Hard-Fi combines quirky pop sensibilities with punk energy and raw, dirty production values. Somehow, it all comes out really, incredibly well. Tunes range from the Clash-ish “Middle Eastern Holiday” to the soul-influenced “Unnecessary Trouble” (complete with horn section) to “Move on Now,” which slows down the album’s tone and energy without sapping it.

    Drumming: Fittingly, drummer Steve Kemp plays with more attitude than technique, more feeling than actual skill. He’ll rip an imperfect fill every now and then, but the groove is so good, the songs so perfect, you won’t care. Listen to how he keeps it solid while being sloppy on “Tied Up Too Tight.” Dig on the fat snare sound driving the funky “Hard to Beat.”

    The Straight Poop: Superb music made by guys who prob don’t care even a tiny bit about wearing clean underwear.

  • 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.