CD Review of Cosmic Universal Fashion by Sammy Hagar
Recommended if you like
Van Halen, Montrose, Night Ranger
Label
Roadrunner/Loud & Proud
Sammy Hagar:
Cosmic Universal Fashion

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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H
e’s taken a lot of shit over the years – and he’d probably cheerfully acknowledge that not all of it has been undeserved – but love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Sammy Hagar is essentially the living embodiment of the rock & roll spirit. Most rock bands are too busy staring at their shoes to figure it out these days, but what’s more rock & roll than a clown-pantsed man in his 60s playing guitar, screaming at the top of his lungs, and fucking off on the beach while living large on the millions he made from selling tequila? Not a damn thing, that’s what.

If only he made better music. It’s hard to get too worked up about his solo albums, mostly because he seems to be having such a wonderful time making them that it almost seems pointless to point out that they often suck, but Hagar has attacked his post-Van Halen years with the unbridled fervor of a man overjoyed at no longer being told what to do – a fervor that, unfortunately, has mostly abandoned quality in favor of quantity. Cosmic Universal Fashion, Hagar’s sixth studio release in the last 11 years, is a lot like the previous five, which is to say it contains a couple of decent songs, one that sort of kicks a little ass, and a ton of filler.

This isn’t altogether unexpected, both because it’s par for the course with Hagar and because he’s openly admitted that Fashion is mostly composed of songs he had lying around with nowhere to put them – but it’s also sort of a shame, because Hagar, ever the party-starter, invited a passel of cool guests to play with him for these sessions, including Neal Schon, Billy Gibbons, Bootsy Collins, Matt Sorum, Billy Duffy, and (of course) Michael Anthony. (In a nice paper-saving touch, the album doesn’t come with a booklet, just a link to download a digital one – but bizarrely, it does include a tri-fold gateway with nothing but photos.) With names like these, Hagar should have brought his best material to the table, but he obviously doesn’t think that way; every album is an excuse to get loose and loud – and if something happens to stick to the wall, so much the better.

A fine example of the results of this approach is Fashion’s inclusion of Hagar’s cover of the Beastie Boys’ "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right to Party." To his credit, Hagar tried to swap out the lyrics of the first verse, but the Beasties (to their credit) refused – and the end result is a man with eligibility for AARP membership screaming about pain-in-the-ass parents and teachers. Again, it’s hard to get too bothered by the track, because Hagar is clearly just messing around – he’s said he included it here because he was approaching the deadline for the album and ran out of songs – but still, it’s easily one of the dumbest things he’s done as a solo artist, and in a career that includes the poisonous "Mas Tequila," that’s definitely saying something.

On the whole, though, this is a suitably sturdy, if utterly lightweight, hard rock collection. Expected highlights include "Psycho Vertigo," a leftover track from the aborted Planet US project Hagar started with Schon and Anthony – and one very unexpected highlight is the dumb-as-a-post "Loud," a ready-made arena anthem written for Hagar by faded Jersey rocker John Eddie. They don’t counter fluff like "Party" (or "Peephole," which, although it sounds like the part of your body that burns after you have sex with too many Cabo Wabo waitresses, is actually a ‘90s-smelling alternagrunge grinder), but if you’re predisposed to forgive Hagar his trespasses, then you’ll be hoisting a lighter by the time Fashion rolls around to its closing track, a tacked-on live medley of "Dreams" and "Cabo Wabo." For everyone else, this album will be an utter dud, but Sammy won’t mind – in fact, he’s probably already halfway through recording his next album.

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