Last week, a spunky lil' band with a clunky lil' name raised a ruckus by topping Billboard's Indie Albums chart. Perhaps you've heard of Chickenfoot? If not, maybe you've heard of its members: Van Halen howler Sammy Hagar and bassist Michael Anthony, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and guitar-geek god Joe Satriani.
Okay, not your typical up-and-coming indie crew. But the supergroup formed at a 2008 Hagar show, started messing with new tunes and signed with Nashville's humble Redline label. Sales have been crazy-hot so far, and why not? Besides being skilled at his job — especially Smith, who plays drums like Kong swats planes — each has a huge following.
But are they any good? Depends on how many Cabo Wabo tequila shots you've done. At its best, Chickenfoot ultimately sounds like post-Diamond Dave VH, a.k.a. Van Hagar, with all its polished thunder, harmonizing from Anthony and sexual innuendo with zero room for interpretation. (Hmm, what are they trying to say on Get It Up?)
In between the nookie numbers, they sneak in message music, tackling Latin American upheaval on Avenida Revolucion, the recession on Runnin' Out and, uh, sadness on Learning to Fall. Hagar and Satriani wrote most of the cuts, and while they're tasty in a 7-Eleven Big Bite sort of way, the lyrics are faux-deep and silly ("Runnin' out of money / Runnin' out of dreams / Runnin' out of sex / We're runnin' out of future / Runnin' out of past." And so on and on.)
My biggest problem with Chickenfoot is Joey Satch, the guitar virtuoso. The man can fly, and pick, and stick a lick for sure. But there's no soul, no joy in his playing. Eddie Van Halen was a showoff, too, but there was a liquid glee in his tapping. Satriani's solos, while technically mind-blowing, just don't engage.
It's hard to hate on a merry band of millionaires jamming just for the fun of it. Hagar's recent comments that Chickenfoot is better than Led Zeppelin let you know he's feeling this (even if he is totally delusional). The album crunches and rumbles and catches, and I thumped the steering wheel more than once. Who's up for another shot?
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.