Like Sly Stallone’s character in nineties sci-fi action flick Demolition Man, John Spartan; a maverick 20th century cop who is unfrozen in the sanitised, puritan new Los Angeles of the near future, Chickenfoot are resolutely old school and a reminder of how things used to be done. Like Spartan, the band manages to remind the modern world of the value of older more traditional methods. In Chickenfoot’s case that means ten-tonne blues-rock riffs, blue collar everyman lyrics and sky-scraping guitar solos.
Old rockers getting together with their peers but without the baggage of the rivalries attendant in getting their illustrious former bands back together (think Van Halen here) is becoming increasingly common as pensionable age longhairs fancy enjoying themselves simply playing the music they love. Black Country Communion have banged out two records of bloozey rock and roll in two years, Them Crooked Vultures did themselves no shame with their self titled effort in 2009 and then there’s always the example of the Travelling Wilburys. Here we have two ex-Van Halen members in Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony aided and abetted by guitar slinger Joe Satriani and Chili Peppers sticksman Chad Smith. The reference points are familiar: Zeppelin, Purple and early Aerosmith can all be heard over the ten fat free tracks and for the most part “III” is a rollicking ode to the golden age of arena rock.
Up-tempo rockers ‘Last Temptation’, ‘Alright Alright’ and ‘Big Foot’ offer the requisite amount of thrilling riffs and fist pumping vocals. ‘Different Devil’ takes a detour in Bon Jovi does Tom Petty territory and is fairly shameless in its pitch for radio airplay much like the other slushy number ‘Come Closer’. ‘Up Next’ features Satriani wrangling one of the album’s most muscular but groovy riffs as Hagar sets off to meet his maker at the Pearly Gates unrepentant in his flip-flops and shades. Throughout Michael Anthony adds those honeyed backing vocals which made him such a key cog in the Van Halen machine (along with his nimble bass playing naturally) and even Satriani keeps it tasteful and restrained with his bluesy licks enlivening proceedings. Chad Smith is, as ever, tight and keeps everything barrelling along and Hagar’s lost none of his vocal range or ear for a melody.
The raging impassioned ‘Three and a Half Letters’ shows the band to be in touch with the concerns of its wide fanbase and suggests that news of the economic difficulties facing normal folk has indeed reached the ivory towers of rock royalty and the album is all the better for its inclusion. Though glibly announcing that you have all the money in the world only two tracks later on the execrable ‘Dubai Blues’ isn’t the best idea. There’s a few too many evil women cliche�s on ‘Lighten Up’ for this 21st century listener but overall there are few missteps on this fine slice of unabashed rock n’ roll.
Ultimately, as Sly demonstrated in Demolition Man sometimes the manly, reckless and daft things in life are the most fun even if you look like a tool doing them.