Cream, Journey, Temple of the Dog, Velvet Revolver. They all have one thing in common: the collective awesome of each band member playing together should technically cause the world to implode on itself several times over.
These are supergroups, joining forces to rid the world of the evils of industrialised music and Justin Bieber. In layman’s terms, they comprise already-famous musicians joining with other well-known musicians to mould their talents together, forming into a face-melting fusion of epicness.
At the end of the nineties, we found hard rock and grunge on their last legs, locked in an epic struggle with the evil overlord, Commercialism. The battle was futile and grunge fell, leaving hard rock to Commercialism’s sick perversions, who stole and entombed their powers in his evil lair for untold centuries. At least, that would have been his plan, had not a disgruntled beggar thrown off his cloak to reveal the face of Sammy Hagar and called upon the aid of Michael Anthony and Chad Smith to free the world of the villain’s dark ties and win back the power of the nineties.
This is already using members from Red Hot Chili Peppers and two versions of Van Halen, so imagine what happens when you thrown Joe Satriani into the mix.
This isn’t just the rantings of an overtired radio presenter (or, at least, some of it isn’t), this group really formed in 2007 and to give an idea on their attitude to this whole band thing, when asked to come up with a name for themselves, Anthony responded with “f**k it, let’s call it Chickenfoot”, and thus Chickenfoot was born, spawning a tidal wave of the most creative album names ever to grace a jewel case, such as their début album, “Chickenfoot” and their second album, “Chickenfoot VI” (?). To be fair, he later added “it all comes down to the music anyway”, and this is exactly the band’s attitude; anything that isn’t writing or performing the music shouldn’t be thought about for more than five seconds. Because this introduction is already nearly two pages long, I’ll cut to the part where I heard about this, grabbed a copy, and, armed with my anti-head-explode headphones, broke one of the first rules of music journalism: do not compare songs to songs by other bands.
Track 1: Avenida Revolution
This wouldn’t have been my first choice for the album’s opening track, but it does provide a perfect insight into the kind of talent the band can provide. Really, the first thing you might think when you hear this is that you accidentally put in a Soundgarden album, but it gets bonus points for reminding me of a song by my favourite band (Lounge Fly by Stone Temple Pilots). Chad Smith’s drumming here is interesting, providing the obligatory non-standard rhythm of this type of rock with toms and crashes everywhere, while Hagar wails out harmonies very reminiscent of Alice in Chains in their golden years. Anthony certainly gets into his bass playing right from the start of the album, proving that the instrument isn’t just for shoving in as an afterthought like so many bands do, but Joe Satriani’s guitar playing doesn’t quite kick off, yet; it’s unmistakably Satriani’s trademark intricate playing style but it’s apparently not time for the big solos this early into the album, which is definitely understandable. The song fades out during a verse for some reason.
While not a great choice for the opener, this is a fantastic song and a pretty good start to the album, so I’m giving this 8/10.
Track 2: Soap on a Rope
The first thing everyone I mentioned this song to said when I told them about it was “isn’t ‘soap on a rope’ a line from Bring The Noise?” While true, I’m pretty sure that’s not what they had in mind. This really should have been the opening track; from the very second it starts, it makes me want to leap out of my chair. This is certainly closer to what you’d expect from a cross between Van Halen and RHCP, with hard rock slamming in your face and funk flying out the wazoo. Satriani also decides that it’s time to unleash the beast and flies off on two insane solos that seem even more passionate and complex than some of his work on Surfing with the Alien. At 5:32 in length, the song sounds like it’s about to end several times, but this is one of the few where you’ll feel like you’d be devastated if it does. I have to make a point that when it does end, it actually ends; there’s almost nothing I can stand less in music than a fade-out ending, and the band actually went to the trouble of stopping the song properly… after five seconds of silence and what sounds like someone sneezing.
Switch this track with Avenida Revolution and my score would have gone all the way up to a ludicrous 10, but this is already one of my favourite songs ever so it’s getting 9/10.
Track 3: Sexy Little Thing
We seem to be going a bit country, now; Sammy even calls himself a “country boy” during the intro. Now that Chickenfoot has established a sound for themselves, they expand on it here and show that they can keep that style in their other songs while still making them all unique. I have to admit that it took me a moment to work out the rhythm of the guitar before the drums came in (although it’s not as bad for that as Rush’s A Passage to Bangkok, and it’s certainly not a bad thing), and, while it’s not quite as movement-inspiring or complex as Soap on a Rope, this song is definitely a keeper and kind of reminds me of Aerosmith. It ends a bit abruptly but what more do you want?
As I said, this one isn’t quite as epic as the previous track and I feel like I actually would get bored of it if I heard it often, but it’s still a great song and I like it more than Avenida Revolution, plus it still demonstrates everything that rock should be, so it also gets 8/10.
Track 4: Oh Yeah
I was very confused when I first heard this, but that’s because the first thing I thought of when I saw the name of the song was the song of the same name by Yello, and because WMP decided that it’d play complete silence instead of the actual song. I have to admit that, when I actually got it to play, I thought at first that it’d also screwed up and started playing an actual RHCP song. While that’s not a bad thing, the intro does sound ridiculously similar to Can’t Stop. I dare anyone to try to listen to this without screaming along with Hagar in the chorus. Speaking of lyrics, the song writing for the last couple of songs has been downright silly for the most part, but this song suddenly seems quite notable in being very interestingly written, lyrically.
I honestly don’t know why I’m doing the scoring thing for this, because this album’s so good that I don’t think anything will get below 7. Regardless, like Soap on a Rope, this is another song that seems like it would get anyone moving, and has a hook so catchy that I think people would be screaming it out hours after it’s ended in concert. 9/10.
Track 5: Runnin’ Out
What is it with rock bands and their vendetta against the letter “G”? More of the same, here, to be honest, but the same is good when it sounds like this. I think this is the first time I’ve had anything negative to say about this album, so far, so this shouldn’t be taken badly; it’s certainly a good song but it doesn’t really have much going for it. Every instrument has a low, dreary feel to it and feels like it’s kind of been pushed to the back, while the vocals are decent with good lyrics but the hook is too similar to Oh Yeah. Of course, someone wouldn’t let that stand, and Satriani flies off on another solo that pretty much redeems the song and left me wondering what the heck happened.
That was the first negative review of the album and I don’t think there’s going to be many other bad things to say about it. Going with what I said on the previous score, it would be below 7, but the guitar solo makes the song worth listening to, so it does scrape a 7/10. Don’t get me wrong – it is still a good song.
Track 6: Get It Up
I feel like Chickenfoot is trying to compete with me for the worst song names ever. I actually had Rusty Cage by Soundgarden playing just before the first time I listened to this, and they transitioned so well that I didn’t realise a different song had started – it doesn’t help that Hagar’s yelling sounds almost identical to Chris Cornell. Anyway, it seems that they’re starting to pick up the pace again; this song is quite similar to Avenida Revolution but is by far the most unique song so far. There are more tribal-sounding toms from Smith and more Alice-sounding harmonies from Hagar – amidst inexplicable cries of “arriba” (by the end, it sounds like their recording session has been invaded by Portugal) – but the whole song has a much darker feel than anything else so far while still showing that they can get their groove on. If I didn’t know any better, and Sammy Hagar sounded less like Sammy Hagar, I honestly would have thought that this was from Alice in Chains’ discography. Noticing how much I’m trying to justify liking this song and not actually saying anything useful, I’ll just say that this song is quite special and unique. Has another cool solo, too.
This song gets the average 8/10 for being good. Yes, “good”.
Track 7: Down The Drain
This title really piqued my interest – the first thing that came to mind was that this is probably the obligatory sad song of the album. Needless to say that I was quite surprised when the song kicked in and the intro sounded more like a hype song. I have to make a point that Sammy Hagar isn’t quite cut out for rapping, but it’s not too different from in the previous songs and still sounds great. Off the bat, I honestly can’t think of any other bands I could compare this to, which is great and really gives me something fresh to work with. The guitar play is quite dark and deep but the whole rhythm of the song is a lot more funky than Get It Up. Anthony unfortunately falls into the metal trap of just picking one fret repeatedly, but he frills it up quite a lot towards the end to the point where it’s almost as interesting as Satriani’s solos. Speaking of which, Joe’s work here when he fires up his solos is the most unique so far, the first sounding more akin to the abstract harmonics of Dean DeLeo’s work in Stone Temple Pilots, while, in the second, he unleashes a hurricane of notes so fast that I’m surprised he still has fingers.
Another fantastic song. The band really seems to know how to make sure all their songs are something special while keeping in their own funk-rock genre. 8/10, again.
Track 8: My Kinda Girl
This is interesting. Not so much because of how different it is, like all the other songs (remember: you’re unique, just like everyone else), but more so because it seems that we’ve gone from Alice in Chains to Bon Jovi in just two tracks. Chickenfoot clearly wasn’t trying to imitate any other band’s sound when they recorded this, though. The first thing I want to say about this is that I love the chorus of this song; instead of trying to tie odd harmonies into the verses (that work, mind you), or just adding some instruments and chords to the chorus, this one really throws everything into it to let you know what the song’s about. Satriani shows off his affinity for non-standard chords to make his rhythm guitar a lot more interesting, much like Foo Fighters’ style, although that’s really the highlight of his playing, here; there is a solo but, while it is good, I’d really forgotten that it was even there by the time the song had finished. Michael Anthony’s bass playing is more consistent than before, accentuating the chords perfectly and more than in the last song but not really doing much else. I haven’t commented on Smith for a while, which is because he’s mostly resorted to just playing the rhythm drummer by this point, but he still manages to find time for some good fills. Something I didn’t expect was the sudden appearance of a harmonica at 2:38, then its disappearance twenty seconds later.
Definitely put this song on your “must listen” list, if at least to show how well they know their rock. It’s more poppy than the rest of the album but more in a way that emphasises how skilled they are than in a way that should put you off. 9/10.
(Note: I actually went back to this song a while later to hear the solo again, and it turns out that there are two and the second one is actually pretty good. I apparently just fell asleep or something.)
Track 9: Learning To Fall
Finally, now it’s time for the obligatory sad song. This basically sounds like every song in Bon Jovi’s “Circles” album, with country-inspired guitar arpeggios drowned in delay and reverb and harmonies apparently trying to mimic a choir, providing a very dreary, melancholic feel through the whole song. It was an odd choice for Satriani to switch to the wah effect for the second verse, though. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of this kind of song because it’s done way too often, but, like everything they touch, Chickenfoot manages to make gold out of it. This is another song where the lyric writing turns up a notch and the band becomes deadly serious for a few minutes – the lyrics manage to warrant the slow, dramatic backing without becoming a sickening cliché, which seems to be very rare. Joe remembers his place, here, too, ditching his insane flailing to adopt a much slower, tender style, even during the solos. Perhaps the best part of the song is when Chad apparently finally remembers who he is and lets out all his pent-up talent from the last few songs in a rhythmic cacophony of snares and toms that threw me back to the Blood Sugar Sex Magik years.
As I said, slow, sad, dreary song, but they managed to pull it off so well that I was able to listen to it a few times in a row and still like it. 9/10.
Track 10: Turnin’ Left
Whoa, I was not expecting that. The band suddenly shoots off on a massive groove-rock binge that blasted me straight out of my chair. When the intro started showing signs of a solo brewing, I began to hope slightly that this might be an instrumental piece, but alas. Hagar isn’t exactly detrimental to the effect of the song, anyway. Every member of the band gets their groove right back on from the moment the song starts and shows off exactly what they’re good at; Joe’s wailing guitar sounds, Chad’s wailing on the drums, Sammy’s wailing, and I can’t think of anything that Michael does that involves wailing, but he does give the funkiest bass line on the album thus far, which is exactly what it has been needing. It also has the best ending of anything on the album so far, too.
You really have to hear this one to believe it. 9/10.
Track 11: Future in the Past
Chickenfoot seems to have a thing for misleading intros. This song goes on for over a minute sounding like it’s going to be some kind of dramatic, electro-acoustic number, then suddenly kicks off into more great funk that sounds quite a bit like The Answer. While at least half of the album has involved funk fusions, this is the most unique of all of them, with a much more harsh sound in the guitar and the addition of a piano and a sine synth in parts. After another minute, I began to get the feeling that they were angling more for progressive rock than funk when it changed yet again into something that sounded more like Stone Temple Pilots in what seems to be an odd throwback to the first track of the album, this being the last – it then goes back to the funk after another couple of minutes. In stark contrast to the opening, they honestly couldn’t have picked a better song for the end of the album; while it can’t rival, for example, Alive by Pearl Jam, this song is very much in the same vein, with generally dramatic and epic undertones and an ending solo that just screams out at you. I don’t have much more to say other than this is by far one of the best songs on the album.
For being an amazing song and an absolutely perfect ending to the album, this song gets yet another 9/10.
Now, there is actually another track in the album, named “Bitten by the Wolf”, but, unfortunately, it was a limited edition iTunes exclusive and even if I hadn’t got there late, I won’t touch iTunes with a ten-foot virtual internet pole and reviewing songs off of YouTube is just wrong.
I’m starting to wonder if I should scale my scoring system to make up for every song on the album scoring seven or above, but I have a feeling that this is probably going to be the best album I’ll review for a while, so it stays for now.
Lastly, if you decide you want to attain this album, I recommend buying a physical copy and heating the album cover to 29°C (84°F). You won’t regret it. Just remember to take the CD out first.
The stinger here is that Chickenfoot actually released this album in 2009, so I’m one and a half years late in reviewing it, but better late than never for a band as good as this. I hope they can keep up working to this standard, because this is some of the best rock I’ve heard for about fifteen years. The good news is that they’ve already announced that their new album is due to hit the shelves at the butt-end of this year. The clincher is that Hagar guaranteed a few days ago that the name will most likely stick as “Chickenfoot VI”. The name of their second album. Apparently, their philosophy is “have fun, play music and confuse the Hell out of our audience”.