Taylor Hawkins / Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders

Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders

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The first solo album by Taylor Hawkins, the drummer for the Foo Fighters, is to the Foo Fighters what Dave Grohl's first Foo Fighters album was to Nirvana -- an album by a drummer turned songwriter that doesn't wander far off the reservation, staying within the boundaries of his main gig but offering a distinctively, charmingly friendly spin on his day job. There's no mistaking that Hawkins is part of the Foo Fighters -- he relies on the propulsive, hooky hard rock that's Grohl's stock in trade, yet he never sounds exactly like Grohl himself. He has a lighter touch, and his eponymous debut with his backing band, the Coattail Riders, has a very Californian feel. It's bright and sunny, feeling a little relaxed even when it's rocking hard, and he touches on a few different strands of L.A. rock, from the funk-punk of "Get Up I Want to Get Down" (a party-hearty spin on Jane's Addiction, which is only appropriate since Jane's relapse bassist Chris Chaney is a Coattail Rider) to the country-rock undercurrents on "Wasted Energy." Even when he digs into angst, as on the mild dirge "Pitiful," Hawkins doesn't feel tortured, and that's the nice thing about this album: it sounds as if he's having fun. Of course, side projects are notorious for being fun for the musicians and not for the listeners, but this album doesn't fall into that trap, and not just because Taylor Hawkins glides by on surfer-boy charm; it's because he's a strong songwriter. Perhaps he doesn't stretch the alt-rock form, but he is a sturdy tunesmith with a knack for memorable melodies and hooks. That combined with the album's easy-rolling feel makes Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders a surprisingly enjoyable debut, something that's good enough to hope that this isn't just a one-off project, but rather a regular job for this drummer turned frontman.

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