You are here: Home>Collections>Band

Review: Van Halen, 'Tattoo'

January 10, 2012|Brian Moore | RedEye

Another day, another musical reunion.

This time, it's Van Halen and David Lee Roth consummating their third marriage Tuesday with the release of the single and video "Tattoo." It represents the first new music from a Roth-fronted Van Halen since 1996, when the band released two new tunes on a greatest hits disc. And the band's new album due Feb. 7, "A Different Kind of Truth," will be their first in almost 28 years.

But, enough about that. How's the new stuff sound? Not great, but good enough.

It's not "Jump" or "Panama" or even "Unchained," but "Tattoo" can sit among Van Halen's hits if only because it's "those guys."

Roth just brings a playful, likable, goofy element to the band that former frontman Hagar couldn't--or wouldn't. Can you really imagine Hagar uttering the song's opening line "I've got Elvis/on my elbow/And when I flex/he talks"? No, but Roth makes it work, with a wink and a smile.

In the accompanying video, though, Roth really shines. He's a showman: flamboyant, animated, a little nuts--like Charlie Sheen, but with talent. The black-and-white video, which hit the web at midnight Monday, features the band in its natural setting: on stage--Roth shimmying and dancing all over the place while guitar master Eddie Van Halen fires off notes quicker than Jay-Z can exploit his newborn child and drummer Alex Van Halen keeps the pace with his trademark shades in place.

Eddie can still work magic on the guitar, but the solo in "Tattoo" is just ... there. Sure, it shows off Eddie's technical prowess, but there is no "wow" moment. Eddie's son, a beefy Wolfgang, fills in for the band's original beefy bassist, Michael Anthony.

And that's where this Van Halen just might fall short. It was Anthony's high-pitched backing vocals, not his bass, that made him such a vital part of the band. With Wolfgang, the band shifts to a lower, meaner brand of background vocals.

That doesn't derail the whole thing, however. "Tattoo" takes listeners back to the years when musicians were known for their product rather than being a product of some record label bigwig. It's not a masterpiece, but it serves its purpose: to re-introduce the band to the public before cashing in on a world tour that stops in Chicago twice.

Will it fly? Probably. Will the band crash and burn like it has in previous reunion attempts with Roth? Maybe. Will the foursome rule the musical world again? Don't count on it. Just enjoy one of the greatest American rock bands back in action.

RedEye Chicago Articles