Monday, January 16, 2012

New Van Halen underwhelms (and what's with those opening acts?)...

The new Van Halen single titled "Tattoo" was released last week, ahead of the early February release of A Different Kind Of Truth, which is the band's first studio album with original vocalist David Lee Roth since he split in 1985 (he returned briefly to contribute vocals to a couple of decent tracks on Van Halen's 1996 Best Of Volume I compilation album). Frankly, I'm amazed that new material from the outfit is finally going to see the light of day. First off, I anticipated a spectacular implosion of the repaired relationship between Roth and guitarist Eddie Van Halen during their 2007-2008 reunion tour, but the pair managed to keep their massive egos in check for the greater good of their fans, the band's legacy, and their bank accounts (it was their most successful tour ever). Secondly, Edward, the band's creative engine, appears to have developed an obsessive Axl Rose-like habit of having a hard time letting go of songs, where they progress from "works in progress" to "completed" tracks. Former vocalist Sammy Hagar said as much in his great autobiography from last year, Red, and God knows I've read seemingly dozens of stories over the years since the band's last studio album in 1998 (the ill-fated Gary Cherone era) stating that the guitarist was hard at work recording new material. Along with Ed's eccentricities and this band's dysfunctional history with singers, a further contributing factor to Van Halen's stagnation have been the numerous health scares the iconic guitarist has encountered over the past decade or so (addictions, cancer, and muscle/joint issues).
If I may employ a cheesy metaphor, "Tattoo" feels more like a stick-on than the real thing when it comes to making an impression on the listener. A solid guitar solo and fine vocal performance can't make up for the deficient and forgettable verse and chorus sections that sound like material from Roth's dodgy post-Skyscraper solo career. The song's half-assed performance video, complete with occasionally badly lip synced vocals and unimaginative backwards video effects, doesn't help. Seriously guys? This is the grand statement you decide to unleash on the world after so many inactive years and such huge anticipation for new material? Wow. The presence of Eddie's son Wolfgang on bass only adds to my apathy for A Different Kind Of Truth. Good on the kid (now 19 years old) for having the poise and chops to handle playing bass in a band this huge, but he just seems out of place and can't fill the shoes of original bassist Michael Anthony who, among the many strengths he brought to the band, was such a huge part of the signature backing vocals sound of the group.
Finally, what's the deal with the acts that Van Halen are picking to open their shows? Ky-Mani Marley, a reggae/dancehall artist (and Bob Marley's son) opened nearly all of the dates on their '07-'08 tour, with a soul artist named Ryan Shaw filling in for the remainder of the shows. Puzzling decisions, to be sure. Now comes the announcement last week that for their upcoming 2012 world tour, the band has picked Kool & The Gang to open a number of shows. That'd be the same Kool & The Gang known for those hard rock classics such as "Joanna", "Fresh", and "Cherish". I've seen some twisted logic used over the years in the music industry, but this one ranks up there with some of the most head-scratching examples. I'd have been less surprised if Chickenfoot, who are probably as persona non grata to the Van Halen camp as it gets, received the bloody nod!

2 comments:

  1. Lets hope that there are some decent tracks on the album when it comes out. I'd be happy with just one great song of this disc.

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  2. I don't know what to expect now. I'm not optimistic, but I am very curious.

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