After nearly two decades in the wilderness, Van Halen were back. The band seemed on top form again after doing a round of highly successful tours from 2006 onwards and guitarist Eddie Van Halen cleaned up from alcohol and drug use. Note that these are not brand new songs, merely edited versions of leftover goodies that the band had before.
This is probably not the best Van Halen album, but it is a good representation of what the band stand for these days, after many years of silence. Note that Michael Anthony is not doing bass and backing vocals here, it is Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen doing so. It’s also the best example of Eddie Van Halen’s EVH Wolfgang in full roar, even on a studio record.
Let’s listen to the music and hear if it holds up well enough on its own.
We kick off with Tattoo which has loud guitars, precise sounds, loud gurgling bass and David Lee Roth singing about tattoos. An interesting listen, although obviously not the greatest Van Halen song ever. It’s not supposed to be, it is merely a loud, rock romp. Eddie Van Halen’s guitar sound is really awesome here, sounding loud, heavy, original and fantastic. A nice comeback from the awful Van Halen III record. Great start here.
Next is She’s The Woman which sounds very well put together, and catchy as well. The lyrics are pure nonsense, but are great to listen to regardless. It induces headbanging, but that is surely a good thing. Eddie Van Halen’s solo is very well thought out, a masterclass in guitar playing for sure. The whole band puts in a superb effort here. A catchy and fun song.
You And Your Blues begins referencing Jimi Hendrix’s Red House, and some other old songs, before launching into a decent listen. It is very close to heavy metal here, in tonality and approach. Still, it has a classic pop/rock feel to it regardless. The instrumentation sounds massive and heavy. It’s less than average, but still listenable here. It has a rather semi-psychedelic outro to it as well, a nice twist.
Chinatown begins with some interesting playing from guitar god Eddie Van Halen before launching into a rather ordinary and fairly forgettable track here. Still, it’s not outright bad, just average. Good effort though, much like the rest of the album. Plenty of references to Chinese culture are here, in a semi-amusing way. The guitar solos here are blistering, mind you.
Following that is Blood And Fire which is another good song with some impressionistic lyrics by David Lee Roth. It’s fairly catchy, although it’s not hugely special. These songs are the best from Van Halen since 1995’s Balance album, a very long time indeed. Eddie shows he can still rock at a senior age, delivering superbly on this record. It’s a good, solid listening experience all the same. The intro and outro are sublime, listen to the way EVH plays there, it’s fantastic.
The awful Bullethead comes next, and either requires a rethink or replacement here. It sounds like a not very well thought out sort of piece, like it was intentionally filler. Some of the elements could have been worked on better to improve the track here, and sadly, this falls flat.
As Is comes next, with a sludgy sort of heavy rock groove to begin with. Eddie’s tone is on top form, as per usual. It’s an improvement on the last track, with a quirky nature to it. Alex Van Halen really drums well here, showing that he and brother Eddie are superb musicians. A very good listen, especially given some of the percussive elements of the song. Oh yeah, David Lee Roth asks for more volume in the headphones as he sings along to the song. Clever. It has a really trippy outro as well.
Honeybabysweetiedoll starts off with a outer space intro, before going into quite an awful song. It’s not really worth your time to listen to, and definitely can be skipped. An ordinary effort that leaves us scratching our heads about where all the years went. Still, better than anything the group did with Gary Cherone.
Next is The Trouble With Never which is a lot better. It’s loud, punchy and catchy with some wacky lyrics that, like all lyrics on this album, don’t make sense. It’s a good offering on this album, and Eddie sounds like he really can play his heart and soul out. A great album to showcase his EVH Gear guitar sound. It goes into an awesomely delayed guitar sound in the midsection, before bursting into more heavy rock riffs. Great stuff here.
Following is Outta Space which is an upbeat, catchy piece derived from one of the original Van Halen demos. It has duel meaning in the lyrics here, and is a good song. Eddie does some great shredding in the guitar area, his playing sounds amazing. A good listen.
Stay Frosty is a song about trying to find one’s destiny and identity in life. It is this album’s Ice Cream Man, complete with well played acoustic intro. It then bursts into a loud and catchy heavy rock/heavy metal jam. An interesting and decent listen, it is a good and memorable song from this album. The repeated melodies here are really catchy. The outro is rather surprising, too.
Big River is next, which is a good song on the album, but nothing hugely special. It’s a good cut and paste job of sorts, which seemingly works well for this album. This is not an amazing track though, sadly. It’s good, just not perfect. The midsection is interesting though.
Lastly, we finish with Beats Workin’ which sounds extremely heavy with open power chords at the start, before going into an excellent rock groove. It makes the end of the album seem so much better than you’d expect. A nice effort, good job boys. This whole song is excellent.
This album is not ever intended to be the greatest album ever. But still, it is a good listen by all means. There are noticeably some duff tracks here, but it turns the modern RnB and Rap music on its head. Refreshing to hear after such a long and difficult spell of no music from the Van Halen masters.