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Van Halen – 5150

I chose this album at random from my iTunes and rocked it as I worked away in the Man Cave. It’s a really great record! All of the VH elements are here – the big riffs, the wheedly* solos, the synth passages, the plodding beats that are bluesy as hell without ever devolving into weakness, the fast rockers…

The first record made after DLR left and Sammy took over, I think the cover art speaks loudest for the position VH was in with the release of this album: VH is a collective Atlas, the giants of rock trying to hold up their own encircling reputations, as well as the mirror world of the shining, near-impossible expectations of their fans… all while still trying to be themselves and make music that matters.

Me? I really dug 5150. Crank it and go!


* My eternal gratitude to our HMO for this wonderfully descriptive word.

Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth

This was the album that started this whole parcel from Scott, our beloved HMO. He said he had an extra copy, said I could have it, right on. Of course, the box in the mail had 23 CDs in it, hence this whole series of reviews covering (and thanks for) all of this goodness.

Van Halen. What does a guy write about them in 2014 that hasn’t already been said? Exactly. Well screw that, let’s hear the record…

Tattoo is a song I’d heard before (it was the single). It’s  a good rocker, bluesy, just heavy enough. Some of the lyrics are silly but whatever. We’re just feeling out having DLR back in the fold. And finally, an EVH solo! After the (drunk review) debacle that was Balance, this is the most welcome thing I’ve heard in a while.

She’s The Woman is pure VH awesomeness. Now this is what I’m talking about! This track maybe should’ve opened the record, but that could just be my opinion. Turn this ballsy rocker way the hell up! Oh yeah! Check out that EVH solo and the drumming prowess of AVH! Daaaaaamnnnn! … You And Your Blues has a nice little nod to Red House at the start, as well as Communication Breakdown and 19th Nervous Breakdown elsewhere. It’s a fun rock tune, but it’s not so bluesy, which is weird, given the title. It’s a nice kiss-off track with another (short) EVH solo. Oh man I am loving that he is back!

China Town is an absolutely pounding track. Full-tilt boogie, baby! This was awesome. Pure energy and rawk aggression. Go go go! Damn, this back to Hot For Teacher territory… Blood And Fire becomes another decent rock song. The chorus reminded me of Pearl Jam’s ‘Faithful.’ Listen to the presentation of lyrics… this is not a bad thing, mind you! It’s a cool track that totally fits the record on which it lives. You know, by now I am realizing that what I’ve heard so far is the sound of a band revitalized and having frickin’ FUN.

Bullethead is another speed rocker. Pretty straight forward but this is what Van Halen does best so you’d better get the hell out of the way! … As Is has a really heavy friggin’ intro, and then that guitar starts a slinky fast riff and away they go with that VH thunger again! Damn, this record is built to go. Wait, the bluesy little bit in the middle here is short but very cool.

Honeybabysweetiedoll is a really stupid title for a song, but that doesn’t top the weirdo intro. Nevermind, it quickly goes for the throat again. The guitar truly owns this track. Heavy! Wailing! YEAH! … The Trouble With Never tries for that same mix of energy and VH magic but in the end it feels like a few good ideas pasted together. Ha, listen to me. As if I could do any better.

Outta Space is still letting it frickin’ rip. More bluesy rawk and I am falling in love with this damn record, by now. So much in these tracks… Stay Frosty has a fun acoustic bluesy intro. The rest of the band comes in and away they go with a blues rocker. Yay! “If you wanna be a monk, you’re gonna have to cook a lot of rice!” Haha! This is th kind of tune that DLR just totally owns. So fun.

Big River sounds like it’s straight off FUCK and that’s not a bad thing. Hear this track and you’ll hear what I mean, I think. Cool tune all around… And finally, as if all of that wasn’t enough, we have Beats Workin’, which builds into yet another cool rocker. Love the shift between the verse and chorus guitar riff.

In sum: Holy hell I absolutely loved this record. All worries about DLR’s return were unfounded. There’s so much rock here, it’s boggling. Anyone who says it doesn’t measure up to 80s VH can just go listen to 80s VH and never grow up. This record was SO AWESOME.

My HUMUNGOUS thanks to Scott for sending me this record. It was exactly what I needed and I will be playing this thing again and again.

Van Halen – Balance

So last week I pussed out and only had one glass of wine, which does not a Drunk Review make. Well, this week I am much further along in the cups department, and I am all set to let ‘er rip.  

And what’s in my sights this evening? Well, it’s another recommended album for these highly serious proceedings from Mike’s site. He’d reviewed this record HERE and I said I’d never heard it. Then I went looking in my CD collection and realized I own the damned thing. Have never played it. Can’t even remember where it came from, don’t remember buying it. So either my CD collection is boinking like bunnies, or I have found the Snuffaluffagus of my CD collection. 

And I told Mike I’d use this joke, so here ya go: I have had wine. I will do my level best to keep my Balance during the proceedings. 

You’re welcome.

So. Turn that sucker on…

The chanting monks at the start are hilarious. So… I’m to believe Eddie’s been meditating? OK! Sure! The Seventh Seal is a cool riff. Sounds very L.A. to me, if that makes any sense at all. And the bass, at points, is pure Poundcake (actually, the whole song is), although during the verses the bass sort of just… disappears. Is that just me? This lack makes it shrill and tinny, to my ears. 

Can’t Stop Loving You sounds thin too. Did they have some vendetta against the bass player or something? Ah! Now they’re at the chorus and I know this song from the radio. Sorry, terrible. Holy crap this is a bad song. Now that I know what it is, I remember it sucking. Bah. Pop pap. And that “hold on hold on, come on” part totally sounds like Def Leppard produced it. I dunno, I mean, maybe this stuff is better in a live setting? It’d have to be. 

Also, I’m two songs in and I haven’t really heard any Eddie Van Halen pyrotechnics yet. What’s he doing, coasting? 

Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do) is actually a pretty cool guitar tune, VH-style, but Sammy’s vocals are brutally bad. He’s reaching, trying too hard. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want us to pay too much attention to the chorus part, which blows chunks of pathetic-ness. Also, over 5 minutes? This song goes on way, way too long. Man, it’s still going…

Amsterdam is a cool chugger of a tune, but it still sounds so thin. This record is maybe Van Halen’s “…And Justice For All.” Let’s all hate the bass player! We’ll pretend it’s there but then turn all the trebles way the hell up so it hardly matters! Still, so far, from this growing steaming pile, this is one tune I mind less. I have no idea what that says about my opinion of this record thus far.

Big Fat Money is a VH super-fast rocker. Finally. Sammy’s vocals are still terrible, but at least the band has kicked it up a notch. Christ, he’s “singing” like someone is jabbing him with a cattle prod. Trying way too hard, and he’s buried way down in the mix so he’s unintelligible. Also the key change up into the… well, is that a guitar solo? It’s awkward. What the hell is that? Oh how I love hearing millionaires singing about money. Ugh. 

Still waiting for Eddie to blow my mind.  Starting to think it isn’t gonna happen.

Strung Out. Now here is a song title VH understands. And, suitably, it’s a fucked up waste of a minute and half of my life. NEXT. 

Ah, the ballad. I’ve been waiting for this to turn up. Piano too, nice touch. Not Enough is weak. Is this where the band is gonna “get serious for a minute?” Oh wait, then the band kicks in. Aaaaand it’s just a slowed down Right Now. Skip. Next. 

Aftershock is the first song on this record that sounds like an outtake from FUCK. I like this song. We’re only 8 songs in and they finally get it right. This wine is making me patient, it seems. Sober, I might have shut this shite off ages ago. And I’d have missed this song, and that would have been a shame. 

Doin’ Time is very aptly-titled. It sucks away all of the cool of Aftershock with… what is that, a messed up bongo routine? Seriously. How high do they have to be to think this is a good idea? Aaaaaand there’s another 1:41 of my life wasted. NEXT. 

Still waiting for some semblance of the Eddie of old. Lots of guitar sound that I know is him, but nthing that blows me backwards. 

The stupidly-named Baluchitherium (if I got that wrong, forget ye not I am drunk and typing is hard) is a too-long wank-fest instrumental that flirts with Eastern sounds in its second half. NEXT. 

Take Me Back (Deja Vu)’s first line cracked me up. Sitting here, he says “I thought I saw you from a distance…” Yeah man, you did, I was walking the fuck away from this album. Pretty acoustic guitars become, well, a somewhat cool VH riff-song? I dunno, at this point I am losing interest and my glass is empty and I’m having a hard time deciding which scares me worse – more of this album or the wine bottle being all the way upstairs and I’m kinda apathetic about going up to get more. I’m trapped. Shit. Please send help. 

Screw this, pause it. I went upstairs. I had to. 

And finally. FINALLY. 

Feelin’… Meh. If Sammy had one wish? I don’t care. This is a six and a half minute frickin’ song. I don’t have time for this. By this point, I hope he wishes for the chance to start this record over. I don’t generally hate on records, but I hold Van F-ing Halen to a certain standard. This isn’t it. Not even close.  Not. Even. Close.

Gimme FUCK any day, over this… whatever this is.

NB. There was some hope that our HMO would do a drunk review of this record too, but it seems he is far wiser than I and has avoided this album. Well-played, Scott

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