This has been a post a while in the making—one of the problems with writing the software that lets you post to your blog is that it puts you on the hook if something changes, and I wasn’t timely about handling that, so I’ve got some posts that have been stewing.
Anyway, It’s not without slight embarrassment that I admit that I like the new Van Halen album. It’s not great, mind you—it’s no Fair Warning, or frankly even a Van Halen II (what I think to be the weakest of their Roth-era albums)—but there’s a swagger, coupled with a wink and a grin, that is really fun to witness.
And I’m realizing that the reason is unequivocally David Lee Roth.
When 5150 first came out, I liked it a lot. And I suppose it’s not a bad album even now. And OU812 and even For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge are similarly not bad albums—but they lack a spark. Listening to them now, while the musicianship is great, the actual songs are…I dunno. They’ve become smaller than life; pedestrian; humdrum.
I guess at some level I recognized it even then. I never bought their last album with Sammy Hagar, Balance, or their one album with Gary Cherone, Van Halen III,A Different Kind of Truth, on the other hand has plenty of flaws, but it also has lyrics like:
How many roads must a man walk down
before he admits he’s lost.
And do you really, really drive this way
just to piss me off?
Like the ancient immortals said
Don’t want ’em to get your goat
Don’t show ’em where it’s hid
But that’s just what I did