Sunday, April 25, 2010

415. Van Halen- Let there be shred.

Album: Van Halen.
Artist: Van Halen.
Year: 1978
Genre: Metal.


1. Runnin with the Devil.
2. Eruption.
3. You really got me.
4. Aint talkin bout love
5. I'm the one.
6. Jamie's cryin.
7. Atomic Punk.
8. Feel your love Tonight.
9. Little Dreamer
10. Ice Cream man.
11. On Fire.

On his debut album Eddie Van Halen invented a concept that didn't exist up to that point. Some call it two-hand tapping, some call it shredding, others refer to it as "guitar wizardry" personally I think of it as "guitar playing for guitar playing's sake". It's most obvious during Eruption- a two minute guitar solo. At the time (and to this day) it caused guitar players all over the world to drop their plectrums and say- how the hell did he do that? Those of who don't play guitar weren't asking "how" as much as "why?" Eruption doesn't really have a melody and doesn't move you as a piece of music- it exists primarily to show off Eddie VH's "two hand tapping" technique which involves...tapping... with two hands... presumably both his- Look I don't know, I'm not a guitar player, but apparently it's very good, I just don't need to hear it again. I'm not even sure what the sound of one hand tapping is but it reminds me of a philosophical cliche. It sounds difficult to do but then so are my brother-in-law's physics equations and that doesn't necessarily mean I want to hear them on record. But for guitarists everywhere it's the greatest thing ever. According to Guitar World magazine it's the second best guitar solo of all time.

Personally I prefer Eddie's work when he's soloing in the middle of an actual song. The standout track on this album is You really Got me, a Kink's cover which shows off everything that Van Halen do well- it's a great rock song with some fantastic soloing that doesn't overtake the song. Much the same can be said for Aint Talkin Bout Love the best of the original songs on the album. It's a pity the rest of the release doesn't live up to these two tracks. As songwriters the band wasn't really up to very much frankly. Show Me Your Love is vaguely interesting but most of the rest of the album is infinitely forgettable. Runnin with the Devil was a big hit for the band but it's hard to see why. It plods along at a tempo that should only be used by washing machines on a rinse cycle and has a really annoying and repetitive chorus. The main thing to commend or condemn it, depending on your viewpoint, are the vocal stylings of Mr David Lee Roth. There are those who believe "Diamond Dave" is the greatest vocalist to ever don a pair of tight pants and strut across a stage. There are others who think he's the most annoying and self indulgent singer in all of Rock- a genre which is fairly well supplied with self-satisfied vocalists. You really Got Me shows off his vocal talents where as Running with the Devil highlights everything that is annoying about the guy. He could clearly tell that the song itself isn't up to much and between Eddie's guitar flourishes the band doesn't have much to work with. Dave decided to fill this void by shrieking like a schoolgirl at every opportunity. There are 18 "waaah" "Yeah" "Wooo" or other extended vowel noises scattered throughout the track. That's one every 12 seconds. I counted them. What a strange way to spend an afternoon- sitting with a pen and paper listening to noises made by a man over thirty years ago.

Anyway the point is that if you like Lee Roth then you will love his vocal interjections. "Greatest showman in rock" you can say to yourself while enjoying every one of his shrieky outbursts. If, however, you find him a bit of a prat then he will sound more like a guy desperately trying to gain some attention over the guitar noodlings of his undeniably talented bandmate. In the end the massive egos of Lee Roth and Van Halen split the band and Dave went his own way. Only to return after his replacement also clashed with the guitarist and then leave again only to return again. Look I don't have time to go into all the ins and outs of Van Halen's later career. I'm not interested and to be honest nobody else was after about 1986. They might be about to release another album for all I know but the chances of it actually charting are fairly slim.

Van Halen the album may have been hugely influential on generations of future guitar-shredders but the lack of decent songs makes it a pretty tedious listen. Frankly I'd be happier if the band decided to ditch all their original material and just do a whole bunch of Kinks, Yardbirds and Stones covers.

Highlight: You really Got me.
Lowlight: Jamie's Cryin they should have dropped this track like the drop the G of all their song titles with an ing Runnin, talkin and cryin.

Influenced by: The Kinks, Led Zeppelin and Hendrix.
Influenced: Dweezil Zappa along with Satriani, Vai and all those lads.

Favourite Amazon review qoute: "I can't believe people listen to this junk. This lame hair crap was never cool. There's a reason the great musicians you see on MTV don't dress or look like this. Anyway, the guitar work sucks. This Van Halen thinks he's so great. People say he pioneered a so-called "technique" (a REALLY bad one) called "two handed tapping" or something. When was the last time you saw great guitar players like Avril Lavigne, Ashlee Simpson or Kurt Cobain use this "technique"??? Never, because - like Van Halen - it sucks. This song "eruption" or whatever the hell it is, is nothing more than amateur wannabee guitar playing. Now for REALLY good guitar playing, check out the aforementioned artists. However avoid losers with guitars such as:

Van Halen
Andres Segovia
Allan Holdsworth
Eric Clapton
Steve Vai
Joe Satriani
Megadeth (especially Marty Friedman)
John McLaughlin
Paco De Lucia
John Petrucci
BB King
Al De Meola
Jeff Beck
Yngwie Malmsteen
Greg Howe
Chet Atkins
Michael Romeo
Robert Frip"

-The best thing about this review is that it's clearly a large joke that most people in the comment section failed to get. Sarcasm is tricky to do when it's written down.

So were you two-hand tapping your desk with delight or did it cause an eruption of bile in your stomach? Let me know below.

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