eMusic Review 0
It's hard to remember now, but long before the off-stage tantrums and tour-rider rumors rendered them so comically overstuffed, Van Halen was actually kind of scary. "I live my life like there's no tomorrow," David Lee Roth sings over a heartbeat bassline on "Runnin' With the Devil," Van Halen's opening cut; a few songs later, on "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," he describes himself as "rotten to the core." Recorded just as punk was flashing its trans-Atlantic sneer, Van Halen—one of the best-selling debuts of all time—has trace elements of that movement's scorched-earth vantage. Even the cover, in which 3/4 of the band members are blurry and/or screaming, looks a little ominous.
But these guys were from the California suburbs, where the temptations of nihilism were diminished by the boundless opportunities for getting laid. So for every Grendel-sized riff on Van Halen — and there are approximately 1,726 riffs here, half of them from the epochal instrumental "Eruption" — the album is balanced out by aerial harmonies (as on the cover of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me") as well as Roth's gigolo-clown shtick (spoiler: "Ice Cream Man" is not actually about ice cream). Van Halen is sometimes anxious, sometimes exuberant,… read more »