Heads up! Time to cup a lug around the long-awaited first hear—and single release—from the re-Roth’ed Van Halen: “Tattoo”. Up on the net today, this tease-of-a-track accompanies the obligatory news of a major tour of the United States. And while it would be easy to assume that any new material from a rock band now the best part of two-point-five decades past their prime time would be nothing more than cover for a hit & run soak up of serious dollars along the revival road…
Fair due – Tattoo is no “Jump”, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” or “Jamie’s Cryin’”. Neither is it “Yankee Rose”, “Crazy From the Heat” or “Just Like Paradise”. It is, however, Diamond Dave, Eddie Van Halen; loud, gonzo – and about bloody time. They’re in one place—and despite not being straight up instant classic VH—neither is “Tattoo” some disgrace.
God, I’ve missed David Lee Roth around the place. Ditto, Eddie Van Halen, who really is too darn good at this balls-out rock thing to be stuck back in Yesterday Land. Somehow, he managed to bomb off the radar and rarely gets a mention when people discuss the six-string these days. Granted, genius hangs close to nutcase but, in his place, we’ve suffered some ridiculously diminished returns. At least, a decade-too-many of skinny-assed indie boys, bumming about in their pencil-skeletal black Levi’s, brandishing their guitars like they really do mean it, man. I mean, seriously? C’mon, really?
I can probably come clean and admit stonking, overloaded guitars with a side order of whammy never really went out of fashion chez moi. Roth’s Eat Em & Smile, and at least three Van Halen albums are as close to perfection as the good times get (the former still, several decades hence, cruelly under-rated, being as it – absolutely – is, a bona fide classic).
Furthermore, life on this blue planet right now, financially, politically – whichever way you cut the cake, wherever you stick a pin in the map – is, well, not great. So I reckon VH’s reappearance – much delayed, seriously questioned, and hardly high up folk’s ‘gonna happen’ list – is perfect timing. We need some of this, people. We could do with a party. And we could do with it L-O-U-D. So having Dave and Eddie back, rocking the same hymn sheet is (especially given the pair’s excessive turd-tossing back and forth over the years) is a good place to get things moving.
Track-wise, the first thing that hit me about “Tattoo” was Roth’s lyrics. Upon first spin, this tale of two lovers meeting and bumping and finally getting to know each other over a shared love of skin ink—delivered as it is via a video which reveals the once majorly-maned-one rocking a short back and sides (let alone shimmying around the stage, when he used to scissor-jump some seriously high riser-launched aerodynamics)—seemed a bit lame. Yet go back around a few times, and “Tattoo” comes into its own; ain’t nothing but a good time ticket to yet another of Diamond Dave’s classic cartoon skews on life, coming in scorching the air on some swinging axe.
Next up – obviously – Mr Edward Van Halen. Given EVH’s problems with alcohol leading to a Sheen-like meltdown several years back, it’s a relief to hear arguably one of the greatest living guitarists back doing what he does better, faster and tastier than most. Obviously serious shredding is hardly en vogue these days, so hats off to Van Halen for keeping it lean. Moreover, given Eddie’s form for solos, the rest of his work on VH songs tends to get overlooked. But “Tattoo” proves that the guitarist is still thinking way beyond the box, nailing a musical bed that crackles with raw simplicity.
Oh, and there’s whammy-bar action. Now when was the last time you got some of that?
Last but not least - give the new kid a pass. Folks have been breaking VH’s balls since Wolfgang (Eddie’s son) stepped in to replace Anthony on bass. But on the proof of “Tattoo”, Wolfie’s packing some seriously punk-raw, fuzz-toned lines and, hence, get’s my vote.
If you need to clear some cobwebs and you’re sick of taking yourself too seriously, slide the volume on this video window up high, and get some “Tattoo”.
You know you love it!