Long dogged and annoyed by the “shred”
epithet, Paul Gilbert uses engrained jangle-pop sensibilities, deft tone
selection, and jaw-dropping licks to prove he can’t be pigeonholed—
even on an all-instrumental album like his new FuzzUniverse.
BY SHAWN HAMMOND
The term “shredder” gets thrown around willy-nilly as if it proffers
a canned, easily digestible taste of what the guitarist behind the
label is all about musically. And often it’s used in derision—an efficient, two-syllable means of writing off a player without listening
to a note of their supposed wanking. That’s B.S.
Yeah, all of us can think of a zillion players to back up the disingenuous
argument. Guys that serve up unmelodic, tinny-toned, groove-starved
indulgence as if they were afraid the universe’s supply of notes is finite
and must be used up as quickly as possible before someone else
steals them. But the conveniently overlooked flaw in this hypothesis,
of course, is that we can all name a zillion examples of utter lameness
in any genre under the sun.
Naturally, this levelheaded, well-reasoned point is never going to
eradicate the tendency of some players to dismiss whole swaths of
art because of tenuous mental associations. For them, pointy-head-stocked guitars, having worn spandex 20+ years ago, and the ability
to sweep-pick like a badass will always equate to “uncool shred.”
But the rest of us who sit back and listen without prejudging will
always be rewarded. And Paul Gilbert—a notoriously gifted jangle-pop songwriter who can also melt your mind with string-skipping
neoclassical licks—is one of those guys standing at the ready to
demolish our preconceptions like Godzilla squashing skyscrapers