Well, Ladies & Gentlemen, after 28 years we're finally getting another David Lee Roth-fronted Van Halen studio album. Now, I list Van Halen as one of my Top 3 Favorite bands of all time (the others being Led Zeppelin & Stone Temple Pilots) and so as you would imagine I take an extreme interest in what this band is up to. Oh sure, we could labor over who was the best lead singer or whether or not Wolfgang deserves to be in the position he is in but ultimately it comes down to a band's shelf life. Does anyone still care what Van Halen is up to? Has it been too long since the band seemed relevant? I ask these questions hypothetically because I'm interested in what you guys think. For me, whatever Eddie & Alex Van Halen do is relevant because they have been incredible inspirations to me musically & I feel as though I am fortunate enough to be alive while their lifelines are still playing out. I never got that luxury with Jimi Hendrix & barely got it with Stevie Ray Vaughan. But with them coming to town & a new album due in just under a month, I'm embarrassed to say how school-boy-excited I am about this album. I understand that Chad Smith from Chickenfoot (a friend of Wolfgang's) & Mark Tremonti from Alter Bridge have had a chance to hear the new album & they claim it kicks some unholy ass. So I am approaching it with an open mind. This is not the Van Halen I grew up with but like everything in life, stuff has to evolve or it just goes away altogether.
The heart of it, the carnal appeal for me will always be Alex & Eddie. Quite frankly I'd go see the two of them with just about anybody else. Perhaps you can cross Gary Cherone off that list, though. I DID see that tour & that was the time I got to interview Eddie. Cherone's a great singer & I love Extreme's "Waiting For The Punchline" album but he just never fit with the rest of the band. Yes, the David Lee Roth version of Van Halen was the swagger era that ushered the band into the BIG TIME. Here they best embodied the post-adolescent sexual angst/raqe rampant in that age set & became the world's biggest party hosts at the bash EVERYONE wanted to attend. Every guy over the age of 16 WISHED that their lives resembled a Van Halen World Tour. And quite frankly, I've never stopped. But I digress. The Van Hagar days were not anywhere near as bleak as the "DLR-infused VH ONLY" crowd would lead you to believe. During Sam's stint with the band they released some incredible & timeless material that I STILL think sounds great cranked up to 11. 5150 was DECENT. I wore out a videotape of the Live Without A Net tour memorizing every lick of Alex's drum solo. Pieces of which I occassionally toy with when I'm playing out. The OU812 album had some good songs on it. But I will definitely go on record saying that the band (with Hagar) positively PEAKED with the For Unlawful Carnal Knowlege & Balance albums. Sonically, to me those albums were a triumph over the production on the rest of the band's catalogue. I thought the songwriting was more mature (not that I require mature writing to enjoy an album per se) & there was much more happening on each song. Everyone's gotta have a chance to evolve. Believe me I was not thrilled with Alex's use of Simmons electric drums on the 5150 album & he must obviously not have been either, abandonning them shortly after that tour.
My long-winded point being that after seeing the Cafe Wha? footage from last Thursday's VH club show I have to say I'm more encouraged to give this 2011 Van Halen thing a fair shake. First of all, as much of a problem as I have with Wolfgang on bass, he actually looked much cooler in this video. He actually looked like a MAN. Finally. All the footage I've seen fron the previous tour in '07 he looks like a chunky, sheepish kid up there with zero swagger ( I guess how much swagger can you have at 17 - but then again your A VAN HALEN! STRUT IT!!) & really limited chops. Looks like he'd rather be back home molded to a beanbag chair playing Warcraft with a Mountain Dew Code Red i.v. Not to mention the band's utilyzing pre-recorded back-up vocals to compensate for the lack of Michael Anthony. Wolfie looked like he could be a member of Alter Bridge or Breaking Benjamin or any other cool, hip current band. Point being - he finally LOOKED the part. The footage also showed Wolfie apparently SINGING back-ups, too, so maybe his voice has matured as well. Let's face it, David Lee Roth does NOT have the high note anymore. Don't expect any leaping splits off the drum riser neither. But he's still the consumate party host frontman & as much as I don't want to admit it, still cracks me up. I've had the privilege of interviewing DLR on a couple of occasions I can tell you the cat was born to entertain. So, I'm gonna be right there with you guys the day tickets go on sale vying for 'em online or on the phone. Yes, contrary to popular belief, just because I'm a DJ at a rock station by no means guarantees me tickets for any big show. I blame my inane fear & disdain of networking.
So in your comments below, are you excited about the new album dropping 2/7 & will you go to the show or are Van Halen no longer cool in your world?