Van Halen Finally Gives the World a New Tune with "Tattoo"

Fair due – "Tattoo" ain’t no instant classic. It is, however, Diamond Dave, Eddie Van Halen; loud, gonzo – and about bloody time.

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!




Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.


A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.


The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.