When first looking at this book, the initial question on most readers’ minds might be: What the heck is a vocoder? Simply put, the vocoder (invented in the late 1920s) took human speech and broke it up into its constituent frequencies, thus allowing that voice to be transmitted electronically, and reassembled and synthesized at the other end, reproducing the words, if not the sound, of the original speech. The vocoder was developed as a means of encrypting speech, of protecting transmissions from prying ears. But, over time, it found other uses, in movies, television, and music (if you want to imagine what it sounds like, recall the Cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica). Eventually, what began its life as a tool for cryptology became a pop-culture icon. Tompkins tells the vocoder’s story with great relish, as though he can’t believe how mind-blowingly cool the device is, and it’s impossible to read the book without being caught up in his enthusiasm. This one has cult audience written all over it. --David Pitt
"It’s unquestionably brilliant, not only one of the best music books of the year, but also one of the best music books ever written."
—Los Angeles Times
"Dave Tompkins is seven steps ahead of science and several leagues outside of time."
—Sasha Frere-Jones, Pop Music Critic, The New Yorker
"The best hip hop writer ever born."
—Jeff Chang, author of Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, winner of the American Book Award
"One of the most bugged, brilliant guys I know."
—Oliver Wang, NPR music critic
"No one knows more about the vocoder than Dave Tompkins, not even the dude who invented it. [A]n awesome book about the vocoder and its cultural impact… read it immediately."
“How to Wreck a Nice Beach is much more than a labor of love: It’s an intergalactic vision quest fueled by several thousand gallons of high-octane spiritual-intellectual lust. Outside of, say, William Vollmann, it’s hard to think of an author so ravished by his subject... A hallucinatory stew of Rimbaud, Tom Wolfe, Lester Bangs, and Bootsy Collins.”
"This one has cult audience written all over it."
This author tends to ramble on in circles, repeating things numerous times, as if he is trying to fill the pages with words that he is paraphrasing we he had just said in one... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Wolfy
It's a tremendously interesting topic, but the rock writer style just doesn't work with it. The author goes into some convoluted language as he tries to get inside the minds of the... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Jeff McClain
I am not one to leave Amazon reviews, but I felt inclined to after reading some of the negative reviews on here about this excellent book. Read morePublished 13 months ago by LMT
An interesting subject. Unfortunately, the author has a somewhat rambling and schizophrenic style of prose. There's very little actual information interspersed among the madness.Published 13 months ago by Winston Spencer
The issue with the bad reviews IMHO is just this...the book is marvelous for those of us who are old enough to know what this guy is talking about OR who have a really excellent... Read morePublished 15 months ago by L. Masters
I agree with all the other two and one star reviews. I searched this book out at my local library after hearing about it. Read morePublished on May 30, 2013 by MtotheC
A good book but not great.
It features a detailed history of the military interest and use of the Vocoder as a way of transmitting coded information during the Second... Read more
Tompkins nees to spend some time with The Elements of Style and then decide whether he wants to put in the work necessary to become a real writer - someone who can clearly... Read morePublished on June 12, 2012 by Thomas Parker
At first I was giving in to my inclination toward wanting this book to be a straight-forward linear account of the history of the vocoder... Read morePublished on January 9, 2012 by Twond