Normally I wouldn’t pay that much attention to Van Halen’s upcoming album, A Different Kind of Truth, set to be released next month. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Van Halen, although as a teen I did briefly dabble in the dark art of Halenism-rockin’ out while Running With the Devil bled ears in the background. When word got out a few years back that Van Halen was trying to glue itself together again with frontman David Lee Roth back in the lead singer saddle, I don’t know that the news even registered with me. Frankly, I could’ve cared less, I guess.
Now, however, Van Halen is back-sort of. Bassist Michael Anthony was cast aside an album ago in favour of Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolfgang, who is a competent bassman. The glaring hole left by Anthony is on the vocal side of things, and his backing vocals, often times one of the only interesting aspects of a lot of Van Halen songs (for me, anyway), are gone. What we have now is Roth looking eerily like he’s modelling for AC/DC singer Brian Johnson’s Springtime Collection for Men, and Eddie still making that same cocky grin into the camera he’s been doing for the past thirty years. You know the one…cue up any Van Halen video (doesn’t matter who’s singing)-shot of Eddie’s fingers on the strings of his guitar, shot of Eddie looking bored, shot of Eddie tapping the fretboard, shot of Eddie looking pleased with himself, and so on and so on. It looks like Van Halen are following their hit making recipe book to the letter on their new track, Tattoo, a completely forgettable hard rock ditty that pales in comparison to what most folk would consider ‘classic’ Van Halen.
But here’s my point: Van Halen (or as I call them now, Nickelback South) are a one trick pony. I could care less about those that might argue that Van Halen are a great party band, or that Panama is awesome to listen to while you’re cruising the beach. The fact of the matter is Van Halen have basically been rehashing the same sound and formula for thirty years, and I’m sick of it. It’s boring, tired, and now more than a little annoying. There are a dozen better, lesser known bands out there that would kill to get the kind of publicity Van Halen are probably taking for granted right now, and that’s what really gets my goat in this situation. If nothing else, hopefully these groups will look at Van Halen as an example of what you never, ever want to become as a band.
Van Halen have had their fair share of ups and downs throughout their career. They tossed singer David Lee Roth out of the band at the height of their success in the mid-80s, replaced him with blond Carrot Top clone Sammy Hagar, had a couple more hit albums, and then swapped out Hagar for the dude from Extreme. He lasted an album and a tour (that’s what she said), and was traded back in for Hagar again. Alas, Sammy’s involvement in the band the second time around was not meant to be, and after nearly twenty years of passing singers around like a box of Depends at a senior’s home original vocalist Roth was back onboard. Let’s not forget the sacking of bassist Michael Anthony a few years back in favour of guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang.
Why, you might be asking yourselves, all the background deets for a post about a bass solo from the aforementioned sackee Anthony? I think this clip acts as a great summary of Van Halen’s woes over the years, delivered in a neat and tidy package. Actually, there’s nothing neat and tidy about it. And that’s my point. Like the band, this solo has so many WTF?? moments you can’t help but watch.