Van Halen is about one thing: revenge. Eddie brought in
Sammy to get rid of Dave, flirted with Dave again to get rid of Sammy, brought
in Gary Cherone to clear out the building, trained his own son to replace his most
loyal member, and brought Dave back in for now. Don't be surprised if he cans
his own son yet. And there's even a theory that he picked an intentionally
terrible first single ("Tattoo") to humiliate Dave and the fans who dared beg for his
return. None of this is below him. But is a good album?
"Tattoo" is indeed very stupid. "Tat-too/Tat-too" is not a
hook, a slow, bluesy vamp isn't an opening track, and David Lee Roth sounds
bored trying to do Anthony Kiedis/Steven Tyler rap nonsense ("Swap meet Sally"
actually sounds like "swamp meat salad"). The second verse basso voiceover is
very stupid. But it's not unlistenable. And it's bad in ways that don't feel wrong; sleazy trash is fine for this band. Cherone's
funk-ballads were not.
"She's the Woman"
Cute sexist touch: A song called "She's the Woman" begins
with an intro riff akin to an alarm sounding. Woman patrol, shut it down, shut
it down! This one's a double-time, wah-wah boogie a la "Welcome to the Jungle"
featuring the standout Daveism "I want to be your knight in shining pickup
truck" and a typically scale-jumping solo. Exceeds expectations.
"You and Your Blues"
Another crawling vamp, name-checking stuff like "Midnight
Train to Georgia" and, LOL, "19th Nervous Breakdown" that has
absolutely nothing to do with them. Dave's voice is getting strange. His chorus bellow is like the mock-serious tone "Weird
Al" Yankovic affected on "Dare to Be Stupid." And is he screeching "Woman, suffer
for my color"? Still, the backup "ahhh-ahhhs" (good job Wolfgang!) are
sufficient hookcraft to justify this song's existence. Or do I mean witchcraft?
This intro's fucking rad, it sounds like a vintage Nintendo game's
intro screen until those laser-hot fingers pull away from the fretboard and
damn, Eddie again. I've never remembered Alex's drumming being so battering
ram-like before -- this is speed metal. Dave still sounds like he's just talking,
and I have no idea what he's talking about. Or why he's ominously welcoming me
to Chinatown. Opium? Eddie solos and outros like a drill bit.
"Blood and Fire"
The most songful thing here so far, though Dave really needs
double-tracking to stay in key, and his stuffed manner of wordplay is starting
to frustrate. It leaves no room for innuendo, or emotion, or even particularly
expressive stupidity. If this is of any use to Juggalos, they'll have to strain
to find out. If this wasn't so knotty I'd call it for a single. Pretty things
blurring by, though, solo reminiscent of "Unchained." Mmmm, "Unchained."
Wow, the second speed-metal one is also the second one to
reference protest-era Dylan. Wolfie's really earning his bass lumber here -- it's
amazing how out of the way he stays. Maybe it's fear.
More metal. Is it weird that I never remembered them being
so metal? Were they ever? Are they trying to prove something? Were they sick of
hyperromantic Sammy? For sure he never got to ad-lib the whatever-pops-into-his-head
crap that Roth's given for moments at a time here because his satellite radio
show was too horrifying a proposal.
I have literally no idea what's going on in this intro -- is Wolfgang
farting through a synthesizer? Treating his bass? Preparing a dubstep drop?
When the riff kicks in it's almost incomprehensible, Eddie's sparks flying
everywhere like he's in Blue Cheer or some kind of dark-psych grindcore outfit.
It's kind of cool in a don't-know-which-way-is-up way, and I genuinely respect
how they didn't use this title for a ballad. But they also could've called this