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VAN HALEN, KIDS

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That's right, you indie-rock/folkie/"Paste"-luvin' dudes. The new Van Halen CD releases today!

Where's our thread announcing this? Wasn't one started months ago, in eager anticipation? No?

NO!! No thread!

Alright, alright, we know the score. Andy once posted about how he doesn't understand why people might remain fixated on classic Eddie Van Halen riffs while they miss all the great music released in the last 20 years (or so). It's a fair point.

But this ... THIS is a major music happening.

Isn't it?

Am I just ... showing my age? Is Van Halen beneath the refined tastes here at A&F? Does no one care whether or not the new VH is "the true kick in the butt that arena rock desperately needs"? C'mon! We all need a little arena rock in our lives.

I'm callin' you guys out! Defend your apostasy! Or ... or ... I'll use some more exclamation marks!!!!

Edited by Christian

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I like Van Halen, still put 1984 and Van Halen on my record player from time to time, but I didn't know they had a new one until you told me. I'll have to give it a go.

Edited by bloop

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Christian, I'm fully ready to lay down a cogent defense of early Van Halen to any of the pasty-faced A&F hipsters in the house. Bring it.

Those first three albums are remarkable rock n roll landmarks in many, many regards. They slipped with Fair Warning and then tumbled fatally with Diver Down, only to die a miserable death with 1984. BUT, BUT BUT!!! There is I, II and Women and Children First... and that trio will always stand apart in the canon of FM hard rock albums.

Eddie was a guitar innovator. Perhaps the only one to come down the pike post-Hendrix. His playing was not a novelty-- he truly rewrote the Holy Book of Riffs and that alone is a monumental achievement. He redefined the way a guitar could actually sound on tape and to this day has an electric guitar ever sounded so gut-wrenchingly primal or apocalyptic? (with so FEW effects processors, no less-- much has been discussed about the secret to his early sound, and it's funny that a full 30 years later folks are realizing it was mostly SHEER VOLUME... the most harmonically rich setting for an amplified instrument, btw... but i digress ). He transformed the way the instrument was approached, played and appreciated. It also didnt hurt that he wrote some memorable and original-sounding rock tunes, complete with occasional jazzy flourishes and extremely uncool key changes.

Having said all that, something tragic and lame happened to them around Diver Down and they NEVER recovered. The Hagar era was a complete waste of time. The "new" music is fairly rancid too, from what I've heard. I understand it's mostly revamped, unreleased tunes from their early years-- further evidence that old age and fame do something fatal to real rock n roll. Put on Romeo's Delight or Ain't Talkin Bout Love or the Cradle Will Rock and cry some man tears for the opportunities these geezers squandered.

Edited by Greg P

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Just bought it on I-tunes. Yep I'm an old rocker.

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Those first three albums are remarkable rock n roll landmarks in many, many regards. They slipped with Fair Warning and then tumbled fatally with Diver Down, only to die a miserable death with 1984.

Aw - I really like 1984.

(full disclosure: I'm a teacher) :P

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I am reporting this entire thread to the moderators.

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The AV Club actually gave the album a pretty positive review. They mention that the first single "Tattoo" is one of the worst tunes on the album, which is good to hear. I was pretty underwhelmed.

Also, here I will admit that I'm more of a Hagar man than a Diamond Dave man.

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I made the mistake one day last week of looking at the Van Halen website, which featured b&w video of them rocking out, and it depressed the heck out of me. I'd always heard that Michael Anthony was the glue holding that band together. ;)

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That's right, you indie-rock/folkie/"Paste"-luvin' dudes. The new Van Halen CD releases today!

But this ... THIS is a major music happening.

Isn't it?

It might have been a little more major 10, 15, or 20 years ago. But I think it's still pretty cool.

Am I just ... showing my age? Is Van Halen beneath the refined tastes here at A&F?

<snort> Yes, my refined tastes!

VH circa 1978 to 1984 - best rock band in America (as in, rawk).

[i would like to maybe put Cheap Trick in that slot; but the Trick simply did not lay down a 6-album streak of gold to start their career in the way that Van Halen did.]

They were the essence of everything good about rock music. First of all, they had the blues and the boogie. They were not-always-clean fun with a capital F. Sometimes unsettling and sometimes threatening. Melodies, harmonies, and, well, Eddie Van Halen. And David Lee Roth? Not fair.

They were larger than life. And they did Kinks covers, and did them well.

So I certainly won't begrudge them this reunion, and I'll probably be picking up the new record at some point. I'm just curious about what happened to them between 1984 and now. Anyone?

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The Hagar era was a complete waste of time. The "new" music is fairly rancid too, from what I've heard.

I like the three original VH albums you refer to, but I have to admit that I was a bigger fan during the Hagar years than the Roth years. Maybe I just saw some underwhelming shows, but the boys seemed to have done too much partying before taking the stage for the concerts I attended during the Roth years. The Hagar concerts seemed much more focused, much less sloppy.

The first three cuts off of this new CD have been some of the worst that Van Halen has released. Almost makes you long for the Gary Cherone year(s)...

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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[i would like to maybe put Cheap Trick in that slot; but the Trick simply did not lay down a 6-album streak of gold to start their career in the way that Van Halen did.]

Quite true, though the Trick's streak of gold was four albums long (some might argue three and a half). That's pretty killer too.

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Christian, a hearty +1 (do we allow that?) for the good humor of how you raised this topic.

I missed the arena rock era entirely. When I started college in 1995, it was a lock that any of my music-obsessed friends who liked Van Halen had an older brother who was also a fan. (The same applied for U2 then as well for most my age. Not true for those even two years older who were 13-14 when Joshua Tree hit them). Van Halen was just off the radar of any eldest sibling, outside of having seen the Right Now video a few hundred times on MTV.

I'd already begun diving into classic albums (and some not-so-classic), but had read a million times that I could skip everything from the 80s outside of Hip Hip and anything that was then called college rock, so I did. It is cheap and easy to give these albums a try now, so I'll give it a sincere effort.

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In my early teens, my best friend and next door neighbor built one of our areas only skateboard ramps in his backyard. That big ramp eventually became a hang-out for every flannel shirt-wearing punk in South FL... with a boombox on the perilous drop-in providing a steady cassette-flow of JFA, Black Flag, Descendents, Dead Kennedys, Husker Du etc... This was '83-'84. The ONLY non-punk band I can recall hearing blasted among this dogtown rabble was early Van Halen-- a fact that I consider very telling of how their early music was regarded by us. Roth's innuendos and cocky, SoCal suburban-kid banter about the female libido -- along with Eddie's mind-blistering, impossible-sounding lead runs-- provided the ideal soundtrack for us up-and-coming music snobs.

Jacob London wrote an interesting piece about the "subversive power of preemptive irony" in the The Replacements covering KISS' classic tune "Black Diamond" on Let It Be. Westerberg let the snooty, college radio brats of the 80's know that early KISS was badass (a fact us lifelong KISS fans already knew!) The author talks about hearing thme cover the tune live for the first time:

Immediately, I felt confused and self-conscious about how to respond. Everything in my rigidly disciplined rock music snob brain said that a Kiss cover was wrong. This was Kiss. A joke band. A pimple on the ass of good rock and roll, at least as good rock and roll was defined by my peers and the pop cultural elite to whom I owed my very sense of good and bad. But everything in my emotional experience and that of the rest of the audience simultaneously said the opposite. We all seemed to be loving it. Although as I looked around the room, I saw looks of guilt or confusion on more than one face–no doubt owing to the knowledge that however good the whole thing felt, one’s rigidly codified sense of cool and uncool was rapidly being turned inside out.

There's clearly still an element of this in my 21st century appreciation of early VH. The whole shameless, guilty pleasure thing is there in spades, but so is Westerberg's "I don't give a crap what you pansies think, this stuff still kicks ass."

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There is also the Van Halen Vocabulary Analysis, currently up at Paste.

Despite the fact that Van Halen didn't have a single until 1978, this is still pretty fun.

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There is also the Van Halen Vocabulary Analysis, currently up at Paste.

Despite the fact that Van Halen didn't have a single until 1978, this is still pretty fun.

I've always thought their 1972-1975 period was their greatest. ;)

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There is also the Van Halen Vocabulary Analysis, currently up at Paste.

Despite the fact that Van Halen didn't have a single until 1978, this is still pretty fun.

I've always thought their 1972-1975 period was their greatest. ;)

The Mammoth years with Eddie singing up until '74 when Dave joined. RAWK!

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Greg P, I listened to the song you posted and that sound doesn't just doesn't work for me. It has everything to do with what I was listening to (and rejecting) when I was 13, and I am ok with that.

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Greg P, I listened to the song you posted and that sound doesn't just doesn't work for me.

Is it just the E chord in general that you dislike? Or maybe the freight train intensity of a tight rhythm section? Amazing guitar solos? Volume swells on verses? Songs about whiskey or contentious women? ;)

I challenge anyone to find a song from 1980 that rocks harder than Romeo's Delight.

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Am I just ... showing my age? Is Van Halen beneath the refined tastes here at A&F? Does no one care whether or not the new VH is "the true kick in the butt that arena rock desperately needs"? C'mon! We all need a little arena rock in our lives.

I could live without it. Arena rock drives me up a wall. It's not a snobbish thing (as far as "popular" music goes, I'd have to say my tastes probably trend more towards mainstream stuff than the rest of the folks here at A&F), just a visceral, can't-stand-it reaction. But to each his own. If you can rock out to Van Halen, go for it.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Am I just ... showing my age? Is Van Halen beneath the refined tastes here at A&F? Does no one care whether or not the new VH is "the true kick in the butt that arena rock desperately needs"? C'mon! We all need a little arena rock in our lives.

I could live without it. Arena rock drives me up a wall. It's not a snobbish thing (as far as "popular" music goes, I'd have to say my tastes probably trend more towards mainstream stuff than the rest of the folks here at A&F), just a visceral, can't-stand-it reaction. But to each his own. If you can rock out to Van Halen, go for it.

Ironically Van Halen's first album hit at the time when a segment of the music culture was moving away from what they considered to be the overbloated arena rock of Led Zepplin and the like. Van Halen's first album (arguably still their best) hit the scene with a freshness, energy, and a sassy swagger that was really attractive to people who were tired of the arena rock scene. Not to mention that Eddies guitar work on the album, especially on Eruption was revolutionary. That first album really turned heads.

Of course it wasn't long before VH became a leader in the arena rock of the 80's, and by the late 80's they had lost a bit of that fresh edge although they were still obviously a talented band. I remember that by then VH had very much hit the mainstream and some of their early fans had moved on to find the next original group.

Edited by Attica

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Am I just ... showing my age? Is Van Halen beneath the refined tastes here at A&F? Does no one care whether or not the new VH is "the true kick in the butt that arena rock desperately needs"? C'mon! We all need a little arena rock in our lives.

I could live without it. Arena rock drives me up a wall. It's not a snobbish thing (as far as "popular" music goes, I'd have to say my tastes probably trend more towards mainstream stuff than the rest of the folks here at A&F), just a visceral, can't-stand-it reaction. But to each his own. If you can rock out to Van Halen, go for it.

Ironically Van Halen's first album hit at the time when a segment of the music culture was moving away from what they considered to be the overbloated arena rock of Led Zepplin and the like. Van Halen's first album (arguably still their best) hit the scene with a freshness, energy, and a sassy swagger that was really attractive to people who were tired of the arena rock scene. Not to mention that Eddies guitar work on the album, especially on Eruption was revolutionary. That first album really turned heads.

Of course it wasn't long before VH became a leader in the arena rock of the 80's, and by the late 80's they had lost a bit of that fresh edge although they were still obviously a talented band. I remember that by then VH had very much hit the mainstream and some of their early fans had moved on to find the next original group.

It's interesting the musical tribes we join. 1978 was all about The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Graham Parker, etc. for me. I was aware of Van Halen because it was impossible to listen to the radio and not be aware of Van Halen, but I didn't pay much attention. It wasn't my scene, which was apparently something like Communal Jesus Freak Goes Punk. I think there were about three of us in the scene. I think Eddie's a fabulous guitar player. Not much else appeals to me to this day.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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Am I just ... showing my age? Is Van Halen beneath the refined tastes here at A&F? Does no one care whether or not the new VH is "the true kick in the butt that arena rock desperately needs"? C'mon! We all need a little arena rock in our lives.

I could live without it. Arena rock drives me up a wall. It's not a snobbish thing (as far as "popular" music goes, I'd have to say my tastes probably trend more towards mainstream stuff than the rest of the folks here at A&F), just a visceral, can't-stand-it reaction. But to each his own. If you can rock out to Van Halen, go for it.

Ironically Van Halen's first album hit at the time when a segment of the music culture was moving away from what they considered to be the overbloated arena rock of Led Zepplin and the like. Van Halen's first album (arguably still their best) hit the scene with a freshness, energy, and a sassy swagger that was really attractive to people who were tired of the arena rock scene. Not to mention that Eddies guitar work on the album, especially on Eruption was revolutionary. That first album really turned heads.

Of course it wasn't long before VH became a leader in the arena rock of the 80's, and by the late 80's they had lost a bit of that fresh edge although they were still obviously a talented band. I remember that by then VH had very much hit the mainstream and some of their early fans had moved on to find the next original group.

It's interesting the musical tribes we join. 1978 was all about The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Graham Parker, etc. for me. I was aware of Van Halen because it was impossible to listen to the radio and not be aware of Van Halen, but I didn't pay much attention. It wasn't my scene, which was apparently something like Communal Jesus Freak Goes Punk. I think there were about three of us in the scene. I think Eddie's a fabulous guitar player. Not much else appeals to me to this day.

Another thing about VH is that they were a forerunner of the lighthearted, slightly meaningless but fun lyrics and attitude that was to very much take the forefront of 80's music. Interestingly enough, it was later on after they became more mainstream, that VH lyrics started to take on a more thoughtful, meaningful tone, which was because of Sammy's influence.

Of course The Clash, and the Sex Pistols, and the whole Punk movement in general was at least partially about moving away from the overbloated arena rock vibe which was felt to be a bit insincere and overdone....... much like the alternative scene of the 90's. There is always a segment of music fans that want something fresh and real, that relates to their life experience, and once a band becomes big enough to move into the arenas they have often (or are at least perceived as) moved away from this. I enjoyed some of The Clash's tunes back in the day (still do now and again).

Edited by Attica

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By way of Christian's FB post this afternoon, I present Klosterman's take. He has this to say about Eddie's tone -- which is, after all, the visceral key to VH's early greatness. I'm happy to see Chuck has obviously read some of my earlier posts here ;)

The most crucial aspect of Van Halen — more than the virtuosity or the attitude or the cocaine — is Eddie Van Halen's guitar tone. It's the most jarringly singular post-Hendrix guitar tone anyone has ever produced (EVH calls this the "brown sound," which never seemed accurate to me ... but it's his sound to name). The finest Eddie Van Halen tones are found on 1978's Van Halen, 1979's Van Halen II, and those '76 demos (now referred to as "Van Halen Zero" in bootleg circles). The fact that he can still shred is secondary.... (But) his leads are almost always propulsive, and you can't really criticize his tone; the only thing you can say is that sometimes that tone is better and sometimes that tone is worse. And it was better in '76 (at least to me). It was better when it was analog

Agreed. Eddie got boring the more effects he utilized and the the more technology he employed to flesh out his sound. The key to his early genius-- just like Hendrix-- was his conservative use of effects pedals and his reliance on sheer volume and primitive, physical techniques to melt skulls, sonically.

After sitting and listening to the new album, I agree with this completely:

I unconsciously suspected my takeaway would be, "This is a bad album, but I love it nonetheless." My actual sentiment is closer to, "This is a good album, but I just don't like it, no matter how much I try." And I'm disappointed in myself for feeling that way, somehow, which only proves that the things I understand most will always confuse me forever.

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