Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats - Meet The Meatbats
Chad Smith is a busy boy: drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers, member of rock super group Chickenfoot and now he’s popped up as the leader of a jazz funk ‘orchestra’. He’s no Gene Krupa but, hell, this album of 70’s funk instrumentals is probably the best thing he’s done in years.
It is jam packed full of super serious musicianship of course, but the overriding image that I just can’t shake from my mind is Snoopy and Woodstock dancing around in some crazed acid flashback sequence from Peanuts. Meet the Meatbats hasn’t just got a cartoon title and sleeve, it also has that classic cartoon sound which is largely due to the fuzzed up Fender Rhodes sound that Herbie Hancock made his own when playing with Miles Davis.
So if you are a metalhead in search of the ‘cock rock’ then turn back I say, head for the nearest Hooters while you still have time; there is nothing for you here. I see that some brave souls have remained, you’ve chosen well my friends as this collective, while bringing to the table nothing in the least bit contemporary, are plundering a seriously rich seam here. Unlike Chad’s other sideproject Chickenshack this isn’t about who’s been on the cover of Kerrang most times either, these guys have been picked solely for their chops, and, brothers and sisters, these chops don’t need no mint sauce.
Aside from Chad’s powerhouse drumming the star of the show, for me, is Ed Roth and his utterly compelling keyboard style which has barely been heard in polite company since all those Jazz greats keeled over from partaking a little too eagerly of that moreish heroin. You can’t overlook the masterfully subtle bass work of Kevin Chown who keeps it under the radar, knowing that he’s the key to holding this eclectic mix together. Huge kudos must also go to the phenomenal fretboard skills of Jeff Kollman who, again, never pisses over the campfire by overplaying it and showing off. Thinking back to Chickenshack, if there’s one talent that Chad Smith has, beyond hitting the cowskins, then it is getting his guitarists to toe the line for the benefit of the team.
This is an album of mood music and thus it is essentially pointless in giving you a guided tour of each of the ten songs which make up this album. They are all essentially extended jams which were written and recorded in just a few days and sound all the better for that spontaneity. Tracks like ‘Night Sweats’ take the path of expansive, slow jams which give space for the instruments to put in some laid back star turns in which Kollman’s guitar work is more Hank Marvin than Van Halen. At the other end of the scale you have ‘The Battle for Ventura Blvd’ which kicks up a funkstorm that has just set Snoopy off on another of his turns again. So what’s next Chad? Chamber music or Dubstep?