Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Van Halen - Van Halen

Van Halen - Van Halen

I think this album is summed up in the first line of "I'm The One"; "We Came Here to Entertain You".

Did you ever buy an album you wound up listening to a bunch of times after you bought it? I haven't gotten the chance to do that lately, but this disc has been one that I've been listening to quite a bunch. Not too much because, no matter what album it is, listening to the same album 20 times in a week can kill the impact. And if you don't listen to an album you love enough, after a while, it falls into that category of discs you grow to dislike and ask yourself why you ever liked it. This album, despite being one of the oldest I have ever bought (1978; My oldest is a Johnny Cash album) sounds insanely fresh!

Let me state this now; Albums have a cycle. There is the inital hype and stigma that comes to it when it is released. It will either be glowingly positive or it will be insanely negative. People will either hail it as an instant classic, utter shit, or just another album by an artist. After about 5 years, it's fair to say that the inital hype is dead and all that remains are stigmas and affections, be they good or bad. After 10 years, the final analias is done, and the label stays. Permanetly. It doesn't matter if the album really was pure shit; the label will remain. An album can be looked upon in a more academic sense and be offically declared mediocre, crap, or brilliant, showing signs that it could do no wrong, hail upon as a bands best, or even as a landmark album. After 20 years, the album is aged to a point where it may come back in vouge or fade away.
But what about nearly 30 years? What happens to an album then?

This is a question the more elderly metal heads (sorry to make you feel old) who were around when Sabbath made their first album and went to their first U.S. tour are starting to ask more and more. After 30 years, and album will finally prove it's worth. Most people are astounded that albums after 20 years still sound fresh, so after 30, I think it's fair to say it's a complete and utter masterpiece.

Van Halen's Selt-Titled debut is such a record.

For those who have either never heard their album, be it age, be it finacial restraints, or sheer uninterest, do me the following favor; Do whatever you have to to listen to this album, because it is INCREDIBLE! The opening base riff on "Runnin' With the Devil" is the perfect introduction to the album; Your about to hear an album that will rock and roll you, but with the infamous metal sound to work with it. Eddie Van Halen playes like a man possessed on this album! I, personally, could live without "Erruption" (Yes, yes, it's a legendary guitar solo, but it just sounds "meh" to me), but the album just has a guitar scream!

The classic radio staples are up next with "You Really Got Me" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love". When I write reviews for classic albums, it feels like telling people about the values of water for their body; it seems like common knowledge. But the fact is, there are people who take these discs for granted and people, like myself, who are skeptical of why an album is good ofter get no reason other than it is. "You Really Got Me" has an incredible distorted guitar riff that hooks you into the song; it's like a 1950's-riff with metal discipline. That, added with Davin Lee Roth's vocals, simply make it irresistable. I almost feel old for saying this, but I still remember that damn car commerical with the Barbie Doll and the G.I. Joe. Hell, that was the first time I heard Van Halen, really.

"Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" opens with what I simply refer to as "The Classic Van Halen Sound"; distorted guitars added with a light Phaser effect, giving a futuristic sound to the opening riff, with touches throughout the entire song. It has to be among the catchiest songs they ever wrote, and it is just heavy enough to make sure it isn't sappy, but light enough that it can act as a sort of love-song. But then again, we ain't talkin' 'bout love now, are we?

Underated tracks? They are, without question, "I'm the One", "Atomic Punk", "Ice Cream Man", and "On Fire", two of which were covered by underated and unknown artists I'll mention later. There is just a heaviness to them as well as a classic sense of all their influences. "I'm the One" could be considered a pre-courser to speed metal. Seriously, listen to it and tell me it couldn't influence the Bay Area Thrash movement that spawned Metallica and Megadeth. Same for "On Fire", if not even more so. "Ice Cream Man" is a perfect song for Davin Lee Roth, originally written by John Brim.

I also want to point out two songs on this album that I heard as covers first; "I'm the One" was covered by 4 Non-Blondes on the Airheads soundtrack, and I think they did a damn godo job. It's an all-female group, but really, you couldn't tell. Then you have "On Fire", which was covered by L.A. punk group Wasted Youth on their album 'Black Daze'. Again, good job on their part, but hearing Van Halen do the original is just insane!

I could go on and on and on about this album and how brilliant it is, how it's acutally worthy of the praise unlike some other "classic" albums that may have influenced others but are still shit. But I'll end it on this note; It's incredibly rare to here an album that still sounds fresh after nearly 30 years, and that's exactly what you have here.

4.98 out of 5. Folks, this is the measuring stick.


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