Please Don't Call Chickenfoot a “Supergroup”

In the annals of rock history, there's been only one "supergroup" that did anything truly super, and that was the very first supergroup of all, the band that introduced the term into the rock lexicon, the Eric Clapton/Jack Bruce/Ginger Baker '60s power trio Cream.

In 1966, Bruce and Baker were the best rhythm section in rock, Clapton was God, and the sonic blueprint led to four classic albums and such signature rock tunes as "White Room," "Sunshine of Your Love," and the thundering, psychedelic live reworking of the Robert Johnson blues staple "Crossroads." For three years — their superstar egos would tear them apart — Cream proved that musicians who are singularly talented and individually famous of their own accord can produce great music together.

Because they were great, it's a shame we have to pin the supergroup phenomenon on Cream. The concept that worked so well for that band has since been abused, creating such execrable "supergroups" as Asia, The Firm, Bad English, and Damn Yankees, bands whose ingredients included past-their-prime players taking another stab at rock 'n' roll relevance. These groups muddied up the Cream-concocted formula and watered it down with blatant attempts to score radio hits in the early MTV era. (It's truly mind-blowing to consider that guitarist Steve Howe, who practically single-handedly invented prog-rock guitar playing with Yes, would dumb himself down enough to become a member of Asia and then deign to get within spitting distance of the band's hurl-worthy 1982 Top 10 abomination "Heat of the Moment.") As a result of such bands, the term "supergroup" has, in the present tense, become a euphemism for "self-important mediocrity."

Chickenfoot: A dash of Chili Pepper, two jiggers of Van Hagar, and a whole batch of Satch.
Courtesy of chickenFoot
Chickenfoot: A dash of Chili Pepper, two jiggers of Van Hagar, and a whole batch of Satch.

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Chickenfoot are scheduled to perform on Wednesday, September 23.
Dodge Theatre

The past few years alone have produced such don't-quit-your-day-job supergroups as Probot (led by Dave Grohl and a who's who of metal players), The Raconteurs (Jack White and Brendan Benson), Them Crooked Vultures (Grohl again, along with Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme), and perhaps the weirdest of them all, Tinted Windows (Taylor Hanson from his surnamed boy band, The Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha, Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, and Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos), who actually released a pretty good self-titled power-pop record earlier this year.

Then there's the latest entry into the new-millennium supergroup sweepstakes, Chickenfoot.

The mere name of this band should lead one to deduce that these dudes aren't taking themselves all that seriously (you can almost hear a Greek chorus of stoners going, "Duuude, Chickenshit. Huh-huh, huh-huh"), but perhaps that's the point. And maybe they are ultimately even better for it.

In breaking down the components of the group, only drummer Chad Smith can still be considered a chart-topper, as his main gig playing with Red Hot Chili Peppers allows him to perform with a group that still fills arenas.

Guitarist Joe Satriani deserves critical kudos for being one of the best rock guitarists ever to pick up a six-string, but his fan base is made up mainly of wanna-be guitarists who get geeky over Satch's blistering solos, and that kind of audience doesn't exactly rocket albums into the Top 10 and put tens of thousands of asses in the seats.

Then there are the two dudes who've experienced the ignominy of running afoul of Van Halen (or more specifically, Eddie Van Halen), which appears to repel singers like Off bug spray. Sammy Hagar, who had a successful solo career in the '80s — peaking with the ham-fisted ode to speeding "I Can't Drive 55" — sang for the mega-selling VH for 10 years before either being fired (according to Eddie) or quitting (according to Sammy) in 1996. Bassist Michael Anthony was replaced by a 16-year-old kid for Van Halen's recent comeback tour. Even though the 16-year-old kid in question, Wolfgang Van Halen, is loaded with his pop Eddie's musical DNA and subsequently proved himself worthy of his new gig (despite the blatant nepotism), he's still a 16-year-old kid and that has to stick in Anthony's craw at least a little.

You'd probably expect Chickenfoot to offer up some '80s-style butt rock, replete with big guitar riffs and heavy-handed lyrics filled with sexual innuendo. And that's exactly what they serve up on their debut album. But although delivering the expected makes Chickenfoot a success on a certain level, it's still '80s-style butt rock. And even in that sonorous genre, it's not even as good as the touring versions of Def Leppard and Poison who played their old hits at Cricket Wireless Pavilion last month.

It's safe to say that there will never be another Cream, as most supergroups in the present state of rock seem like side projects, ways for the band's members to kill time without having to chase a little white ball around a golf course in between their "real" projects. But the legion of supergroup failures in the past four decades doesn't keep artists from grouping up and trying to capture lightning in a bottle. Are Chickenfoot going to sell records? Sure. Their self-titled debut album entered the charts in the top five. Are Hagar, Anthony, Satriani, and Smith having a good time? Undoubtedly. But are they going to make listeners forget about Van Hagar or Red Hot Chili Peppers? Hell, are they even going to make listeners forget about Asia and Damn Yankees? Probably not.

So let them play Dodge and let them rock the crowd. Can we at least stop calling outfits like these supergroups?

 
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10 comments
Seth
Seth

I agree with Brad; how could the author forget to mention (or possibly not know about?) the Traveling Wilburys? Anyway, as far as I'm concerned this 'supergroup' is made up of talented musicians who play a genre of rock that thankfully died with the '80s. Not being relevant isn't a problem if the music works on an artistic level, which it does not. Check this review of their album written by someone at AllMusicGuide.com:

http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll...

They gave the record 2 stars and I personally think that's about right. I found it to be a major labor listening to their record. It just doesn't work. Hagar is a good singer but honestly Van Hagar material doesn't even come close to the stuff with David Lee Roth (regarding the Van Halen comments above). Roth was a much better performer and singer, in my opinion. I'm glad I got to see the band reunite a couple years ago (minus Anthony, unfortunately) and it was one of the best shows I'd ever seen! They played nothing but material from the first album through 1984 (which I had hoped for) for three hours and it was amazing!

Anyway, yeah... Chickenfoot - great musicians, sub-par music.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow

As a " professional" reviewer you are dead wrong. Waaaaay wrong. It is the media who labeled this band as a supergroup ! This to me is a fresh band with a breath of fresh air. It is far from "butt rock" as you say. That is a pathetic ignorant statement. I had a chance to see this band without even hearing the whole album, and it was honestly a incredible show. Poison ??? Def leapord??? you are on crack !! CHICKENFOOT made these bands look like students. I actually got my money's worth for the show. Unlike the shit tour that VH put on in '07. I have been a VH fan since the 80's , and I can tell you I like the new Chickenfoot just as well !!!! They are making the VH brothers look like fools. Satch has turned out to be a better player than Ed van halen on top of it !! Chickenfoot is good old classic rock based music. They hit on all cyliders. Did you even listen to the album ???? "Running out" and " Sexy little thing" sound like butt rock to you ??? " Future's in the past" is a tune of epic proportions !!! Like many I did not quite know what to expect from this band.......but I got more and different than I expected. This is a group of seasoned and energetic musicians. They don't play any covers from their past bands either, wich is a total relief. They don't need to. This music stands on its own. And you are dead wrong about people not wanting more from this band. People are already wanting more and could care a less about hearing any more chili peppers or solo Joe. People have said this, that is a fact. This band kick some serious rock ass. It is funny you mention Damn Yankees , I saw them back in the day and they were nothing that special, they were not very good live either. I walked out because it sounded like shit and was totally distorted. Chickenfoot makes the past " supergroups look like shit. Chickenfoot is a legit band just like Cream. End of story. And you are a ignorant punk. Now that my friend, is an honest view.

tone
tone

i like the album...i like the band...joe is a guitar phenom.sammy is amazing on many levels. michael anthony should be allowed to kick eddie and alex in the nuts...cause he rules...although rhcp hasnt had a decent album in 15 years...chad is stll awesome...

but the ticket prices for this show are f*%kin ridiculous... dont wanna be called a supergroup...dont charge like one... unless i hear the extremist and ou812 in their entirity (and mothers milk time permitting) than bring it down a bit

Sunny
Sunny

Great article. It's so nice to read a piece where the writer has something insightful and knowledge based to say. I learned something about the evolution of bands. I love Chickenfoot, but no, they're not a Supergroup.

Heroes
Heroes

Who the fuck is "Chicken Foot"??..super groups you say??...just another rehash of has been rock star icons trying to cash in.....BORING Sidney Boring!!...go turn on some Delta Head you lame ass moronscheersKeef

Todd
Todd

While I like Chickenfoot's album I actually agree with the article -- "supergroup" is way overused these days.

fan
fan

Sounds to me you havn't gone to see them!!!!!!!!!!

Sean
Sean

Sounds like the writer's band never was signed and he spews hatred towards all others who are successful. Critics are supposed to write reviews that say what is good or bad about the music. Personal feelings should have nothing to do with it.

tom
tom

This writer sounds bitter....like he was forced to write an article on CHickenfoot. The guy spends over 1/2 the time talking about other bands!

Brad
Brad

What about one of the biggest supergroups of all time... The Traveling Wilbury's! George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lyne, and Roy Orbison. You can't get much more supergroup than than.

 
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