So one of the most anticipated and most hyped hard rock albums in some time is finally released. I loved the Roth-era of Van Halen and still do because I listen to those first six albums regularly. The Hagar-era never impressed me and that was more because of the writing than just because of Hagar's voice or the fact that he wasn't Diamond Dave. So a few years ago the band reforms with Eddie's kid in for Michael Anthony and Dave comes back in the fold. They tour and talk about a new album coming and we wait a couple of years and finally here it is. About a year ago I was listening to Van Halen's 1976 demo (AKA the Gene Simmons demo). Some tracks on it like "Runnin' with devil" would soon be on an album and others like "House of pain" would take years before being on an album. I wondered why tracks on that demo like "Big Trouble" and "Let's get rockin" never got put onto vinyl because they were certainly good enough. Well now over 35 years later these songs and several others from this demo get the re-worked treatment. "She's the woman" is the only track from this demo where they kept the original title for the new album although "Bullethead" appeared under the same name on another early Van Halen recording as well. So almost of this album is reworked material. Okay, that means it's not totally original, but it does help towards it having that classic Van Halen sound. So let's break it down and see what we have. We all heard "Tattoo" before this album hit the shelves and the reactions were mixed which is understandable. It's alright song, but rather repetitive. Next up is "She's the woman" which captures the early vibe of this band pretty well. "You and your blues" is a steady track with a strong opening and a very tight pace. "China Town" opens with Eddie noodling around and then lets loose into the kind of speed this band hasn't touched on decades and Dave keeps up well enough. "Blood and fire" definitely reaches back to the early 80's Van Halen sound. It's nothing new but maintains a nice flow and has a fun vibe too. "Bullethead" is a rather primitive song that plunges ahead pretty well, but it has some clunky moments. "As is" opens up the with an offbeat thudding sound before making way for a powerful attackthat may have been at home on "Women and children first" or "Fair warning". "Honey babiesweetiedoll" goes from static and noise to an odd pace and Dave talking a bunch of nonsense in a deeper than usual tone. Despite a longer than normal solo from Eddie this track still comes through as filler. "The trouble with never" comes on with some swirling guitar work from Eddie and Dave does more talking than singing, but the backing vocals and the totally tight pace keeps this one going. "Outta space" flat out rocks even though it's one of the borrowed tracks I mentioned earlier. However the lyrics and theme are changed around and this is one of the most impresive songs on the album. "Stay frosty" is vein much in the style of "Ice Cream Man" from the debut. Nothing special or surprising but above average. "Big River" revolves around another familiar riff and this song was"Big Trouble" on the band's 1976 demo. This track really works because it's so smooth and unlike a lot of other songs on this album Dave sounds very comfortable and they really take their time with this one. "Beats workin" is a simple song that drags in place. Not bad at all, but I may have liked it a little better if this song had been second to last and "Big River" was the closer. So overall this is a good album with enough high points to make it worthwhile. Is it perfect or one of their best? No, but no one should have expected that. There are not many new ideas on this one and Dave's voice isn't what it used to be. However it's a good effort and they manage to capture a fair amount of the spirit that this line-up once had.
Labels: 2012, Van Halen