[24 February 2009]
At this point in time, I don’t think the fact that Sammy Hagar was in Van Halen has any bearing on his career. This is probably because since those heady days as Eddie’s right hand man, Hagar’s aligned himself with two properties most people will buy into regardless of the salesperson: Cabo San Lucas and tequila. Brutal life truth #456: when you’re tanked off your ass on a picturesque beach in Mexico, it doesn’t matter who turned your favorite band of party metal outlaws into adult contemporary with guitar solos. In that scenario, I’m sure the expertly tanned, open-shirted, grinning presence of the Red Rocker would be more welcome than that of a neon bedecked David Lee Roth spouting the expected weirdo ruminations (“I never met a taco I didn’t like!”).
Indeed, in this post-Gary Cherone era, Hagar seems miles more relaxed than “Diamond” Dave, and certainly more committed to life, liberty, and the pursuit of beer pong. Hagar generally comes off as a man who has nothing to lose (he already lost his VH job to the singer from friggin’ Extreme), but on the other side of that curly-haired coin, Sammy Hagar is a guy who has absolutely nothing to prove. Perhaps this is why his latest effort, Cosmic Universal Fashion, is so gloriously half-assed. Before you get your board shorts in a tussle, please be advised that Sammy himself more or less cops to this in Cosmic’s liner notes (which environmentalists will be happy to know are only available online—yes, the Red Rocker is officially green).
“I wasn’t making an album when we started,” Sammy admits upfront, going on to explain that Cosmic’s title track was something he recorded with an Iraqi musician he felt the need to put out. Luckily for us, Hagar and his band the Wabos had a few “half started” songs that they were willing to flesh out for our listening pleasure. This accounts for the brief nature of Cosmic Universal Fashion; the album showcases only ten tracks, including a live two-song Van Halen medley (“Dreams/Cabo”) and a cover of—ahem—“Fight for Your Right” by the Beastie Boys. If there is one track that exemplifies the slapdash nature of this project, it’s Sammy’s unnecessary (and pretty painful) run-through of the Beastie’s chart-topping hit from 1986. For realz, “Fight for Your Right” is a song I’ve seen more discerning eleven year old girls pass up at bowling alley karaoke sessions.
Yet, as previously stated, this laissez faire approach is why some people still raise their salt-rimmed glasses to Sammy Hagar. Hey, at least he’s being honest—he worked pretty hard on one song, and the rest were just kind of thrown together. Regarding Sam’s labor of love, I don’t think I agree with his written assertion that “Cosmic Universal Fashion” sounds unlike anything he’s ever done before. I mean, we’re not talking about some kind of Gaelic dirge performed on a distorted sousaphone with backwards masked vocals here. It’s just a generic boomer party rock song with a few electronic nuances and a slight Middle Eastern vibe. It could be a Hagar track from any given year between 1995 and now. Jon Lovitz was right—self-delusion can be pretty miraculous sometimes.
Generic boomer party rock (or maybe old guy-trying-to-sound-cool rock) accurately sums up the rest of Cosmic Universal Fashion, too. Despite a handful of guest appearances from the likes of ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and the Cult’s Billy Duffy, this record remains well below outstanding or notable. That said, I must commend Mr. Hagar for keeping his trademark dry, pinched vocal styling in VG+ to NM condition. There’s no Lil’ Wayne-type Auto-Tune at work on this summabitch, just the clenched anus throat attack that made Sammy Hagar a household name before he was ever aligned with two Dutch guys and Michael Anthony. Like the pants that share his name, Sammy Hagar’s voice is durable, reliable, and perfect for that casual event you have coming up at the boathouse.
I would like to hereby congratulate myself for making the official 300th Sammy Hagar/Hagar pants joke. I plan to celebrate by covering a Beastie Boys song with an Iraqi musician and commissioning a court room sketch artist to document the collaboration on recycled paper.