Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Does Anybody Think This Van Halen Reunion Will Work?

Look, I am a fan of Van Halen. I have been for many years. I own all the albums, I listen to them regularly, and I love all aspects of the band's history, Roth, Hagar and even Cherone. You cannot downplay the influence of Edward Van Halen on the guitar, even today.

Yet...This picture fills me with nothing but dread.

And I'm amazed that it makes anyone else excited. Yeah, yeah, I get it, Roth's back. New album with Roth.

It was the same when they launched their nostalgia tour in 2007. I was curious, I'll admit, but I also wasn't going to pay $100+ for seats behind the stage. There was also the issue of Michael Anthony being summarily dismissed, to be replaced by Eddie's son, Wolfgang, because he DARED to, A: want to work, and B: remain friends with Sammy Hagar.

But, see...When I look at videos from the 2007 tour, I see a tired act. I see Roth pulling the same jackass shit he did in 1981, and it feels old. Roth was a superstar of his time, of that moment. I remember when his A Little Ain't Enough album hit in 1991 it was just utterly ridiculous. He, and the album, were openly mocked as Spinal Tap come to life, and this was before the Grunge revolution.

It's one thing to be true to yourself, it's another to act like you're 21, when you're pushing 60. Of course, his core fanbase doesn't give a shit. I tend to believe most of them wish it was still 1981.

Eddie, too, seems a shadow of himself. The 2007 tour was full of embarrassing videos of him playing off time or out of key. I compare those videos to the last time I saw him on stage, in 1998, with Cherone, and it's night and day.

The core point is, there's a lot of people out there who have a lot of energy committed to the idea that this album is gonna be "like 28 years never happened." Well, it won't be. It can't be, and if you want it to be, I'm predicting a lot of disappointment. It'll be The Phantom Menace all over again. It's exceedingly rare that anyone can recapture something that was unexpected and organic the first time.

Plus, they've all changed as artists. Eddie spent 13 years with Sammy Hagar, who had a much more elastic voice, and a wider acceptance of musical styles, than Roth. Oh, Roth lives for "Jump," now, but Eddie had to fight to get any keyboard song on a Van Halen record. I hazard to guess he's less apt to walk away from that wider palate of expression the years with Hagar afforded him.

Roth isn't even "Roth" anymore. The whistlestop scream is gone. He was never much of a vocalist to begin with, but he's even more limited now.

I'm also not down with Michael Anthony being persona non grata. This is no critique of Wolfgang, who's obviously talented. I've seen videos of him working multiple instruments with skill. That said, let's not whitewash how much of the "Van Halen sound" is Anthony's backing vocals, in any era of the band.

The most unsettling element of this entire deal is. really, that it feels all amazingly half-assed. The album has been the center of swirling rumors for almost six months, now. It's finished, mixed and mastered. It's finished except Eddie and Roth are fighting about the vocals. It's finished, but we want a new label deal. (I find it funny that, according to rumor, anyway, Cherone was let go because Warner Brothers records demanded it, and then, when Roth comes back (which is apparently what WB demanded), they jump ship to Interscope (because they're a "hipper" label, which smells like Roth thinking).

I also see a lot of people excited online because, reportedly, the band has put promotion and marketing in Roth's hands. OK, fine, but...what, exactly, outside of the 2007 Van Halen reunion tour, has Roth been successfully involved with promoting, recently? Each of the 4 solo albums he's released since 1991 have met with increasing public apathy. His tenure as a radio host was somethign of a non-starter. He ended up as a Vegas lounge act for a while.

The last year has also been marked with announcements involving the band that are later withdrawn, cancelled, or ignored. With the actual band response being mostly the latter. They were announced to headline the Soundwave Revolution Festival in Australia during the summer of 2011. The shows were promoted, tickets sold, then the entire festival was cancelled. The official line was that a "unannounced co-headliner" dropped out and forced the cancellation. Rumor was rampant that Van Halen dropping out was the real cause. Van Halen public response? Zip.

Then the band signed with Interscope. The news broke, and the ONLY acknowledgement from the band was the above picture. Let's take a look at it again;

Y'know what I notice? Roth's distance from the rest of the band. I've taken enough publicity photos in my time to know that you put thought into what's the focus of your image. The strong choice, and one that any respectable publicist would make would be to put the band, as a unit, in the center of the picture. They are the reason everyone's there. Yet, we see this gulf between them. 

Then our latest, the Grammy Awards Nominations concert, and the official announcement that a "reuniting band" would be making an announcement. The Grammy twitter account even gave this hint, 'Who do u predict the reuniting band will be...Does this hint make u wanna “Jump” & “Dance the Night Away”?'

Well, that's pretty obvious, isn't it? Other people thought so, too.

Of course, the band didn't show up. And it's left to the Grammy people to make excuses. Not word one from the Van Halen camp, who had to have known those press releases, tweets, and hints were going out. It's utterly ridiculous. It feels smug. It feels condescending. It feels like a band taking it's fanbase for granted.

In short, if the album is "finished," and has been finished for months, then what the hell are you waiting for?

Personally, I'm of the mindset that this album will never come out, the tour will never happen, and that we've seen the end of Van Halen. The internal ego battle between Eddie and DLR will drone on and on, and the delays will continue until the whole thing just dies. I also find myself very much OK with that. I think, at this point, I'd be more excited to see a new group with Wolfgang Van Halen and other musicians his own age. His father and uncle could make guest appearances, or produce the album, but that would be something new and fresh.

Instead of feeling like I'm waiting for the corpse to start rotting.

1 comment:

  1. I'm okay with it too. But I disagree with you on the 2007 tour. I saw that and I was expecting a train wreck. Maybe I saw the 1 good show on this tour. It was definitely terrible that Eddie and Wolfgang were singing to Michael Anthony's original backing vocals. But the band was awesome. I would also like Mike Anthony back and he absolutely got the worst possible treatment one could get for being the only sane person in the group after all these years.

    No matter what anyone says about DLR's limited range vs. the band's sales with Hagar, the songs will always be better. I love you, DLR! But you can't move in with me just yet...