Van Halen "Van Halen" Classic Review

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 10th, 2007.

The argument has been on-going since what seems like the beginning of time: who was the better lead Van Halen frontman, Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth? Sure, Hagar is technically a better singer and sold more records than Roth, but anyone who claims he was better is, well, wrong.

Roth’s scissor kicks and spandex are simply legendary, and the Cabo Wabo tequila salesman can’t compete with that. Twenty-five years later, we all know that David Lee Roth is pretty much insane and will whore himself out at any opportunity, but that doesn’t change the fact that there was something indefinably great about those first few Van Halen albums, their self-titled debut in particular.

From the opening of the seminal “Running with the Devil,” the band’s greatness is clear. Eddie’s virtuosic guitar work is immediately apparent, and Roth’s crazy character and charisma shines.

There is really nothing to be said about “Eruption” that hasn’t been said already. Those 102 seconds of whammy-bar goodness simply changed the way the guitar was played and undoubtedly inspired more kids to pick up the guitar than any other song ever did. At this point, it’s hard to judge just how large of an effect it has had, simply because it’s been copied so many times.

The entire A said really feels like a greatest hits collection. All but one track have been a staple of rock radio since their release and are all iconic. However, the B saide isn’t any less strong. It features the hilariously bluesy “Ice Cream Man” and the hyperactive “Atomic Punk.”

From David Lee’s sleazy-yet-somehow-sympathetic “Jamie’s Cryin’,” to the masterful reworking of the Kinks’ classic “You Really Got Me,” the members of Van Halen sounded like rock stars. It’s amazing to think that at the time, these songs were being played in bars. Everything just seems custom-made to be played in massive stadiums, and knowing David Lee Roth, it probably was.