Most ordinary drummers are content to sit at their post near the back of the stage, hardly getting noticed behind the showmanship of singers and guitarists. But Travis Barker is not your ordinary drummer, and making sure the man behind the kit gets his due is a task he’s undertaken throughout his 18-year career as a professional musician. Playing suspended upside down, 20 feet above the stage, is a common undertaking of his — and that’s not even mentioning his second-to-none stick speed, which has the ability to steal the show with a single drum solo.
Give the Drummer Some
Continuing with this mentality that drummers deserve more credit than they normally receive, Barker decided to record his first-ever solo album, aptly titled Give the Drummer Some. The result is a collection of songs, each featuring different artists and styles of music with one commonality: Barker lays down beats on his drum set, serving as the backbone throughout the album.
Additionally, Barker has co-producer credits on every track except one. This new role is clearly his main focus on Give the Drummer Some, as there is considerably more attention paid to producing an ear-catching hook than haphazardly throwing in unnecessary drum fills. The restraint and attention to cleanliness are commendable — Barker oftentimes looks and sounds like an untamed madman on the drums. However, the album’s main downfall is its inability to create a memorable beat that sticks out from the rest. Instead, Barker plays to the strengths of guest artists and recycles their already-established sounds, creating average imitations rather than breaking new ground.
For example, “Carry It” features a guitar riff from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and the rest of the song follows the hardcore-funky feeling of a typical Rage song. Record scratching is sprinkled between the plentiful distortion and a speedy, frenetic guitar solo finishes off the track.
Similarly affected by Barker’s focus on his featured artists, “Knockin’ ” combines a sleepy chorus performed by E-40 with Snoop Dogg and Ludacris doing what they do best — that is, performing verses on pop songs that pander to a mainstream crowd. To its credit, the tune does contain a compelling effort on the drums as Barker sinks into the downtempo and disjointed surprisingly well.
“Let’s Go” is perhaps the best example of this rip-off syndrome, as Lil’ Jon “hey”s his way through the heavy club-thumping. And with Busta Rhymes and Twista spitting rhymes quicker than a sports car, the song has two obvious goals: Go fast and go hard. Despite this caricature of Southern rap that has relentlessly repeated itself the past several years, the song also proves to be one of the most fun efforts on the album. Barker’s drumming, however, is almost non-existent until the very end of the track as a drum machine is employed for the chorus, which leaves very little space for Barker to air out.
The guest list for Give the Drummer Some is undeniably impressive, sporting an eclectic mix of rappers, rockers and Top 40 cogs, almost all of whom are certified “Big Deal” status. But Barker’s look-at-all-these-famous-people-that-I-know mentality comes back to haunt him with weak offerings from Kid Cudi, Lil Wayne and Slash.
Much like the rest of Cudi’s hit-or-miss catalog, “Cool Head” falls squarely in the latter category. Repressive synthesizers create a dark and depressing mood that’s almost impossible to enjoy. On “Can A Drummer Get Some,” Weezy decides to pay homage to his favorite athletes, but a line like “Pull out my dick and just pee on flames” makes the song more notable for an unhealthy obsession with urination. Once great guitarist of Guns N’ Roses, Slash, sounds more like Santana on “Saturday Night” as an obnoxiously smooth guitar has the liberty to randomly litter an otherwise bearable song.
Travis Barker’s desire to adapt each song to the artist he’s collaborating with doesn’t discredit him as a drummer. But Give the Drummer Some ultimately doesn’t establish him as a powerhouse producer either.