CD Review of Chickenfoot by Chickenfoot
Chickenfoot: Chickenfoot
Recommended if you like
Van Halen, Joe Satriani,
Sammy Hagar
Label
Redline
Chickenfoot: Chickenfoot

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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I
f you remember the days when hard rock was supposed to be fun – and have watched in sadness as AOR playlists have been steadily swallowed up by one pack of grunge-influenced sourpusses after another – then Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, and Chad Smith, a.k.a. Chickenfoot, have the cure for what ails you. From the band name on down, this group of grizzled vets has no aspiration higher than helping you flush all that gloom and doom out of your speakers and give them a fresh injection of a few classic rock ‘n’ roll ingredients: volume, juvenile double entendres, and the pursuit of a good time. It may sound pretty basic – and Lord, is it ever – but nobody can seem to remember how to make music like this anymore, and after close to 20 years of rockers with daddy issues, "basic" sounds pretty damn fresh.

In Hagar’s defense, he’s one of the few old guard rock stars who has not only refused to stop partying on record, but has also managed to keep releasing albums on a regular basis. Unfortunately, most of those albums haven’t been very good; brain-dead latter-day Sam tracks such as "Mas Tequila" are enough to send an old hesher scrambling for his dusty old Poison cassettes – or even (shudder) Nickelback. Hagar’s problem is that he rarely bothers to bring his A-game unless he’s got a talented foil to keep him in check; from Montrose to Van Halen, most of his best work has been done in combination with someone who can rein in his more clownish tendencies.

In Chickenfoot, Hagar gets three someones – his old pal (and fellow Van Halen exile) Anthony, Chili Peppers drummer Smith, and AOR guitar god Satriani, whose swaggering riffs and chattering leads dominate Chickenfoot. Along with Hagar, Satriani sounds energized here; this is the punchiest, most consistently aggressive work he’s done since The Extremist way back in 1992. Anthony, meanwhile, is a force unleashed – this is, of course, four-on-the-floor stuff, but if you ever yawned your way through one of his interminable live solos and wondered how in the hell he wound up in Van Halen in the first place, the energetic pocket he forms with Smith is your answer. Plus, as an added bonus, you get heaping helpings of Anthony’s trademark backing vocals, sorely missed from the last few Van Halen studio outings.

Make no mistake, Chickenfoot is dumb stuff – and proud of it, with song titles like "Soap on a Rope," "Get It Up," and "Sexy Little Thing" crowding the track listing – but it’s fun dumb stuff, and the band’s teeth are sharp enough to make it stick. In terms of overall aesthetic, the album comes across like a parallel-universe follow-up to Van Halen’s 1991 release, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge: a little short on hooks, but long on ‘tude, and tailor made for playing in the car with the windows rolled down and the volume turned up. If it had been released 20 years ago, beer companies would have been elbowing each other in the nuts to secure the tour sponsorship. Those days are long past, of course, and Chickenfoot will probably sound like nothing more than dinosaur rumbling to younger listeners. Indeed, only time will tell if they stand the test of time (sorry, couldn’t resist). Whatever happens next, though, these songs stand as a proud testament to the enduring power of a studio full of stacked amps, some tuneful shouting, and a smile.

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