Question: What do you call an irritating person who hangs around with a bunch of musicians? Answer: The drummer. Tub-thumpers down the ages have mercilessly suffered such jibes from their less rhythmically-inclined band-mates. Periodically percussionists will attempt to prove their musical manhood but, save for the honourable exception of Foo Fighters‘ Dave Grohl (oh, all right, and Phil Collins and Don Henley), the world has not exactly flipped on its axis when presented with the latest solo offering from a cutoff T-shirt-wearer seeking a spot in the limelight.
All of which doesn’t exactly bode well for Jerry Gaskill, drummer in one of the most influential yet sadly under-rated heavy rock bands of the past 15 years – King’s X. To make matters worse, he has a lot to live up to. Not only have his colleagues Doug Pinnick and Ty Tabor had solo albums and side-projects coming out of their very musical ears, but most of them have been pretty fine to boot. Can the “quiet one” of King’s X also produce a solo album that speaks volumes?
The short answer is no. Don’t get me wrong – Gaskill is a talented guy with a pure, sweet singing voice not too dissimilar to Ty Tabor’s, and as well as being a drummer extraordinaire, he’s pretty handy with a guitar. The problem is that for a good half of this album (in fact from track six, Faulty Start, to track 13, Hello Mrs), the music is polished, psychedelic, acoustic guitar-based pop that doesn’t so much shout as whisper wimpily. It’s perfectly pleasant but it ain’t foreground music, if you know what I mean.
It’s not all bad news, however. The guy’s from King’s X for goodness sakes, so there has to be some quality on offer. Thankfully, there is and it bookends that “difficult” middle section. Opener The Kids is a beguiling mix of sunny acoustica, Beatles harmonies and effectively placed sections of distorted heavy rock guitar, while closing numbers I Saw You Yesterday and Face The Day also add some much needed electric crunch amidst already strong tunes.
Lest you get the mistaken idea that this reviewer only appreciates bludgeon, the likes of She’s Cool and LA Flight show that Gaskill can do the acoustic thing shimmeringly well when he chooses to steer away from the run-of-the-mill. LA Flight is particularly fine and possibly the album’s strongest cut with a memorable, slightly dark melody and some understated but oh so cool drumming. More of the same next time, please Jerry.
So, as far as these ears are concerned, this album is not going to add to the far from bursting at the seams volume of “Great Solo Drummers’ Albums Of Our Time.” In places it shines, but too often it seems content to hide its light under a bushel. In other words, there’s still no getting away from the fact that where Doug Pinnick, Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill are concerned, their three heads are infinitely better than one.