Meet The Meatbats

Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats

When you’re hot, sometimes you’re on fire and the urge to engage in a little self-reverie invites all sorts of possible outcomes. But if you’re drummer Chad Smith, you probably don’t have a whole lot to lose anyway. Smith’s day job with the Red Hot Chili Peppers has been a 20-year love affair. Chickenfoot, the “supergroup” he’s pounding it out for that includes Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani and Michael Anthony, is also kicking up a lot of dust. So, how on earth would Smith, a man equally famous for his striking resemblance to Will Ferrell, have time for something else on his own? All I can say after listening to Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats’ debut album, Meet The Meatbats, is I’m glad this is something he was able to squeeze in.

Side projects by established players can easily fall into a trap of incomprehensible indulgence, but Smith and his Bombastic Meatbats — guitarist Jeff Kollman, bassist Kevin Chown, and keyboardist Ed Roth — pull it off like a tight-knit unit with chops deluxe. The 10 instrumentals here are soaking in funk, punk, jazz and rock grooves, without any signs of ego malfunctionality. “Need Strange,” the opening salvo, hooks you instantly — a brief roll on the snare followed by a funky clavinet angling for position once the rest of the band falls in and pushes everything forward. Listen to this and “Oh! I Spilled My Beer,” and you’ll think you just walked out of a Stevie Wonder concert circa 1974.

“Battle For Ventura Blvd.,” “Tops Off” and “Into The Floyd” meander in jazzier modes, replete with Kollman’s masterful guitar work, poking in and out of slabs of Roth’s Fender Rhodes and Hammond B3. Meanwhile, Smith and Chown lock and load one rhythm pattern after another like they’re joined at the hip. The shades and colors fade up or down to facilitate the overall flow of the record. Inevitably, Meet The Meatbats is a party fusion, clumping together a diverse range of styles and temperaments that will have you crowing for more. Other commitments be damned — I want my Meatbats!

~ Shawn Perry

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