Tag Archives: Van Halen

Van Halen Announce 2015 North American Tour–They’re Playing Where You Live

I’ve been out of it lately and I’ve been meaning to do some writing…well today Van Halen announced a pretty big North American tour and shook me from my malaise. I missed the band the last time they reunited and toured–so this news has me pretty stoked. Sure, Michael Anthony is still out of the band and he-who-shall-not-named is still playing bass (and fat), but this announcement has me reaching for my Visa card.

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Sure, I’m still trying to recover financially from buying a pair of Replacements tickets, but this is Van Halen. Van fucking Halen. One of THE last truly great, truly massive rock bands. I’m sure this won’t be their last tour, but this will probably be the last chance I’ll ever get to see them.

And look at all the chances Van Halen is giving me (and you) to see them this summer:

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And the dates keeps going! Too many dates for one screen grab!!!

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That’s pretty much every American city worth a damn, and then some. Hell, the band is even playing my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and they only have one horse! Since moving to Denver a year ago, I’ve yearned for seeing a concert at Red Rocks (Morrison, Colorado) and this might be my chance to finally pull the trigger and visit that epic outdoor venue. But who will accompany me? Mrs. Defending Axl Rose ain’t the biggest Van Halen fan, and these tickets are gonna be expensive. I hate dragging her to stuff, but I really hate dragging her to concerts that cost $100 a pop. My fantasy list of people I’d like to see this show with would be: my Dad, Robin Renee, Gandhi, and maybe my 8th Grade Science lab partner who liked to scribble “Van Halen” on his trapper keeper (sorry dude, I have forgotten your name).

Alas, I’m broke as hell but I’m gonna fill out a home equity loan application tomorrow so I can buy tickets for this tour. I’ll keep you all posted. In the meantime, how about a little mood music?

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I Made Jack White’s Guacamole Because…Rock ‘n Roll!!!

When I first heard “Fell In Love With A Girl” way back in 2002, I had no idea that people would still be talking about Jack White in 2015. I liked the song well enough, but I wrongly predicted that White’s career (and impact on the music industry) would be as lengthy as The White Stripes breakthrough hit. I was thoroughly puzzled by White initially. I remember seeing White creepily perform “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” on Saturday Night Live and writing The White Stripes off completely. Look, we at Defending Axl Rose can’t all be right 100% of the time. Sometimes things slip by me. And don’t forget, when The White Stripes came on the scene there was a lot of strange rumors about Meg being Jack’s wife-sister…so you can’t blame me for dismissing them.

I quickly corrected my view of The White Stripes when the band released ELEPHANT in 2003. When  Mojo magazine declared it the band’s “British” album, I quickly went out and bought it on CD and red-and-white colored vinyl. That’s right, I dropped $45 on the album before I’d even heard “Seven Nation Army.” ELEPHANT was rousing, epic rock album that blew me away and immediately made me a fan and follower of White. I still think he’s weird (sometimes a little too much for his own good), but he’s the closest thing my generation has to a true rock god.

Oh my God, do a Google image search for "Jack White Guac."

Oh my God, stop reading and go do a Google image search for “Jack White Guac.” Seriously.

I’m still heartbroken that The White Stripes are no more, if you want to know the truth. I like The Raconteurs and love The Dead Weather, but I miss those glory days of red-and-white albums. White’s solo records haven’t really done much for me, but to tell the truth I’ve never really given them much of listen. White has given me so much over the years, I really owe it to him to sit down someday and study both BLUNDERBUSS and LAZARETTO in depth before writing them completely off.

Anyway, like the rest of you, I have been breathlessly following Guacamole-Gate, the dip-themed scandal that has embroiled Jack White these past few weeks. For those of you living under a rock, here are the basics: Jack White played a concert at the University of Oklahoma earlier this month. The school’s newspaper used the Freedom of Information Act to acquire the contracts involved with the concert. These documents were published in the school paper and revealed the amount of money the school paid to have White perform, as well as White’s tour rider. While I was a bit surprised it only cost the school $80,000 to have Jack White perform, the press (small and large) have jumped on the tour rider which included a recipe for Jack’s guacamole.

Ah, tour riders. Do these things ever not make an artist look crazier than a bag of cats? The purpose of tour riders is to ensure that bands and their staff are comfortable while setting up and waiting to perform  a gig. Let’s face it: being a traveling musician is not fun and glamorous. Can you imagine sharing one bathroom with everyone in Metallica? Or splitting a meal with Wolfgang Van Halen*?  Then there’s the small army needed to setup and tear down even the most modest of stages. Tour riders ensure that these hardworking folks get all the brown M&M’s they so desperately need.

Speaking of brown M&M’s, the most famous rider in all of rock history is the Van Halen rider that specified that the band have a large dish of only the brown colored candies. This demand made the band  poster children for rock excess, but over the years Eddie Van Halen has claimed that his odd request was made out of safety! According to Eddie, the band used this request to judge how compliant venues were with all of their requests. If the brown M&M’s weren’t done right, the band reasoned, then maybe the super dangerous lighting rigs weren’t done correctly either. I hate to side with Eddie (because agreeing with him stokes his ego) but the dude has a point.

Jack White’s rider requested that the venue make a bowl of homemade guacamole and included details instructions on how to make it. These instructions are Van Halen-specific, going so far as to tell venues what sort of knife to use on the avocados (a butter knife, presumably to avoid smooshing the soft fruit). The recipe even includes instructs venues to use the avocado pits and lime juice to prevent the guacamole from browning.

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“Subject to budget and advance” naturally…

When the rider hit the interWebz, the music world was shaken to the core. So much ink was spilled over this non-story that earlier this week, Jack White issued a long, semi-rambling statement about this rider. Essentially, he was sick of being asked about the whole affair and chastised the student reports for making something out of nothing. White’s management group issued a statement saying that White and their other artists would be boycotting the University of Oklahoma because of this incident. Of course, White had nothing to do with that particular decision. He even went so far as to say that he’d forgiven the student reporters and holds no ill will towards Oklahoma.

For such a strange guy, White’s response to the so-called scandal was surprisingly down-to-earth. The only disappointing part of White’s statement, in my opinion, was the revelation that the guacamole recipe wasn’t actually Jack’s:

“Anything on the rider is for the band and the crew. This “guacamole recipe” is my hilarious tour managers inside joke with the local promoters, it’s his recipe, not mine. It’s just something to break up the boredom, seeing who can make it best. Though I wouldn’t know because I’ve never had it. I can’t even make kool aid let alone cook any real food enough to have a “recipe.” sorry, I don’t have that talent.”

Great. So first The White Stripes break up forever, and then I find out Jack White can’t even make the most basic of party dips. What’s next, Bono will never be able to play guitar again? I know I’ll never be a musical genius like Jack White, but if I realized that if I could make this guacamole then there would be one area where I’d have him beat! Thus, I decided to use the recipe to make his manager’s dip. I went to the store and acquired the ingredients necessary for this magical rock ‘n roll creation. Then I rolled up my sleeves, put on some White Stripes, and got to work.

When you follow the recipe, this what you end up with:

So how was it? Well, if you follow the directions to the letter, you end up with something less like a dip and more like avocado salad.

Sorry, Jack. That isn't how I like my guacamole.

Sorry, Jack. That isn’t how I like my guacamole.

I’ll be honest, I fully intended on following the recipe to the letter, but I couldn’t abide such hippy-dippy gauc. Also, I’m really lazy. It was so much easier to just shove everything into my food processor.So that’s what I did. The results, while not 100% Jack White approved, was still pretty stellar.

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The serrano peppers added just the right amount of heat. I love spicy foods and this dip didn’t let me down. I would like to add that if you plan on making this dip, be sure to have a hungry crew of guitar techs coming over–the recipe yielded a ton of guacamole.

Delicious!

Delicious!

 

*I bet you thought I’d gotten over making fun of Wolfgang. You thought wrong.

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My Top 10 Albums of 2012

Why have end of year lists have grown in popularity over the past 10 years? What does it say about us as a species that we clamor for and around arbitrary lists created by people we don’t know? My own personal theory is that the popularity of end of year lists serves two functions:

1. Validation. Obviously we like having someone tell us that our opinions are the right ones, and seeing our favorite things on someone else’s end of year list does that. It’s comforting to know that we agree with others but it’s even more comforting when that other is a critic of stature like David Wild or Roger Ebert.

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2. Facilitating our laziness. Why go out into the world looking for the best music, books, films, or art when someone in a black turtleneck can do all the heavy lifting for us? End of year lists distill a year’s worth of media into an easy to consume morsel. I’ve met people who base all their film watching on top critics end of year lists.

I’m guilty of both: I like looking at end of year lists to see my own personal tastes validated AND I like to use them to discover things I was too lazy to find on my own. I don’t think there’s anything evil or wrong about end of year lists, but they do tend to get out of hand this time of year. I think reading end of year lists are an okay use of your time…but I think making one of your own is a far better way to kill a few hours.

Why? Well, I think a great end of year list functions as a kind of yearbook. When I sat down to write my Top 10 Albums of 2012 list I started to simply list all the albums that really knocked my socks off this year. But then I started to consider things like “Am I still listening to these albums?” and “Do I see myself still thinking about/revisiting these albums in future years?” That made things a little more difficult, which I rather liked (I always do fancy a challenge).

So once I had my albums that moved me (or whatever) and then removed the ones I wasn’t still listening to, I found I had a much shorter list. I took that list and compared it to my blog for the past 12 months, chiefly–how many of these albums did I get around to writing about? What did I say? In the case of one album in particular, I found that I wrote about it A LOT. I factored that in when arranging my list from #10 to #1.

What was the most difficult part of making this list? Figuring out what actually came out in 2012 and what came out in 2011 that I only discovered this year. There were a TON of really great records that came out at the end of last year that I sadly only discovered this year—meaning they could not appear on my list. The record I most wanted to put on my list was Metronomy’s THE ENGLISH RIVIERA. That was probably the album I enjoyed the most this summer, but wouldn’t ya know it? It came out last year. I ran into a lot of that while making this list.

Please read this list, compare it to your own personal tastes (feel slightly validated) and then use it to lazily fill-in the parts of 2012 you overlooked or missed. Once you’ve done all that, jot down your own best of 2012 list, I think you’ll find it’s an interesting mental exercise and a fantastic way to reevaluated the music you’ve heard this year. Maybe even slip me copy of your list in the comments section below (I won’t judge).

With all that in mind, I present my Top 10 Albums of 2012:

10. HARMONICRAFT by Torche. Arguably the stupidest genre name of all-time is sludge metal. I don’t even know what that means. Torche’s album HARMONICRAFT is supposed to be sludge metal, but to me it just sounds like awesomely melodic hard rock. “Roaming” and “Kicking” are brilliant hard-rockers that sound like Jane’s Addiction meets The Cult. The album is dark and has a rough edge while still being catchy and fun. If you’re like me, you’re always looking for a hard rock that isn’t super-stoopid or endless banshee screaming: HARMONICRAFT strikes a nice balance between hard rock and pop. The guitar work is great, and so is that Brony-filled rainbow wonderland on the front of the album.

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9. COBRA JUICY by Black Moth Super Rainbow. I’m not really into electronica, but every now and then an artist comes out that manages to combine the best of rock/pop and dance music. Experimental music is really hard to like and even hard to recommend, but Black Moth Super Rainbow really pull it off on COBRA JUICY. It’s a neon-rave-up that’s got rock soul. Songs like “Windshield Smasher” and “Hairspray Heart” are what the second Sleigh Bells album should have sounded like: aggressively noisy yet super-groovy. Worth noting, this one was waaay off my radar, but was pointed out to me by my super-cool friend over at TAKEN BY SOUND, which is a really cool indie-rock music blog.

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8. WRECKING BALL by Bruce Springsteen. I know, I’m just as surprised as you are that Bruce Springsteen is on this list. I was listening to Little Steven’s Underground Garage and Little Steven (who is more than a little biased, being in the E-Street Band) talked up the record and played “Easy Money.” Before I could dismiss WRECKING BALL outright, I heard “Easy Money” and became instantly hooked. The whole album has a very electric-folk/Old-Timey feel to it. WRECKING BALL is Springsteen’s recession album, which while not much fun, does provide an excellent palette for a rough and tumble artist like The Boss. “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Death To My Hometown” are great, hardscrabble songs that could work for The Great Depression or the late 2010’s. Through it all, Springsteen remains a symbol of art nourishing us through the hardest of times. These are the times when a bard of his stature is most desperately needed. He didn’t disappoint.

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7. SLOW DAZE by Blonde Summer. Technically these 5 songs are an EP and not an LP, but after listening to SLOW DAZE on virtual infinite repeat this summer: I’m promoting it to full LP status. Blonde Summer’s amazingly breezy, super-fun album reminded me what it feels like to be young and just enjoying the warmth of summer: and that was just the title track. The rest of SLOW DAZE is top-notch indie-rock that’s fun (“Robots on Command”) and heartfelt (“Walking in Space”). Minimal and echo-y, SLOW DAZE is like a short romp with an incredible lover—it doesn’t last very long, but the warm glow it gives you lasts and lasts. Hell, I’m still tingling from the noise-rock of “December,” and it’s actually December now. SLOW DAZE owned my summer and has made me super-eager to see what these guys do next. But for now, we’ll always have this summer.

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6. LONERISM by Tame Impala. Pound for pound, LONERISM has more cosmic-freak-out-otherness than any other album on this list. If you’ve ever wanted to get high without drugs, grab a pair of headphones and take this album into a dark room. Close your eyes and prepare to go on adventure. Imagine Oasis and The Flaming Lips doing a shit ton of LSD and then merging into one band: that’s LONERISM. “Endors Toi” and “Elephant” shatter your mind and then blow away the pieces. I really liked BEARDS, WIVES, DENIM by Pond, which is essentially Tame Impala, but overall I think LONERISM is the stronger, more accessible record. But don’t take my word for it: go sit in the dark tonight with this album.

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5. CLASS CLOWN SPOTS A UFO by Guided By Voices. One of my all-time favorite bands came back, and they came back in a big way this year. Not only did the original GBV line up return to tour, they released not one…not two…but three incredible records. When was the last time a band came back after disbanding and put out ONE good album? Exactly. Robert Pollard is a rock ‘n roll Jesus (sorry Kid Rock). Picking which of the three albums to put on this list was hard, but also kinda easy: of all their 2012 records, this is the one I rock out to the most. The title track is probably the greatest GBV “single” in a decade. “Keep It In Motion” and “Forever Until It Breaks” are icing on the cake. All GBV albums have short, micro-songs that many people dismiss, but CLASS CLOWN SPOTS A UFO has the best short Pollard nuggets I’ve heard in a long time (“Roll of the Dice, Kick in the Head”). And don’t get me started on the awesome, Who-like “Billy Wire.” Okay, I’ll get started on it: “Billy Wire” fucking rocks my socks and makes me feel like I’m a badass Mod seeing a super young/virile Who tear up a small English nighclub. Long live GBV.

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4. MAJOR by Fang Island. Fang Island does what Torche does in that, they offer up heavy riffs with strong melodies. The difference is that Fang Island is more indie rock than mosh pit. “Sisterly” is so hard-charging but at the same time sweet. I don’t mean “Dude that’s sweet,” I mean little kitten hanging on a clothesline sweet. Fang Island are so cool they don’t care what you think of their earnestness. These guys are serious musicians, too. Even if you don’t usually go for instrumental rock, you’ll dig their instrumental “Dooney Rock.” It’s an interesting, tasteful, non-wankfest that will win over even the most jaded music fan. Fang Island is equally heavy and gentle; it’s hard indie rock for sensitive hearts.

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3. LOVE THIS GIANT by David Byrne & St. Vincent. Who knew that teaming up the dude from Talking Heads and that weird indie-chick St. Vincent would yield such a good harvest? The bombastic lead track “Who” is real stunner, but it’s the one-two-punch of two unlikely freaks getting together and letting their freak flags fly that elevates LOVE THIS GIANT beyond “Who.” This is Byrne’s strongest post-Talking Heads work, hands down. It wasn’t that I’d written him off so much as I just didn’t bother to really think too much about David Byrne at all. LOVE THIS GIANT re-establishes Byrne as a relevant artist with a lot more to say. I wasn’t super familiar with St. Vincent prior to LOVE THIS GIANT, but I’m learning. That she’s half his age and still manages to hold her own in the presence of such a legend is no small feat. I still get chills every time I hear “Optimist.” So, in summary: the triumphant return of one of rocks most unlikely superstars plus a rising indie-songstress plus crazy horns equals LOVE THIS GIANT. It’s a record that you put on and feel refreshed, challenged, and puzzled by.

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2. A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH by Van Halen. Nobody thought that a new Van Halen album was going to be a dismal failure more than me. Go back and check the endless jaded, negative, anti-Wolfgang posts. I’m a big man, I can admit when I’m wrong. Sure, “Tattoo” fucking sucks. It’s the worst song on the album and it’s slightly embarrassing…but everything else on A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH works. Maybe the songs are recycled from decades long since past, but so what? They were still re-worked and recorded by the Van Halen of today, and they don’t disappoint. It’s like it’s 1984 all over again: big choruses, crazy solos, thumpin’ drums, super-bravdo, etc. Van Halen don’t reinvent the wheel so much as get it rolling again, and thank God…because rock was starting to get so dismally boring. “Blood and Fire” recalls the pure adrenaline of “Panama.” “You and Your Blues” is like an update of “Unchained.” Van Halen shouldn’t work in 2012, but somehow they do. My favorite track, the one that gets the most play at the gym is the stupidest: the frivolous “Stay Frosty.” Why does “Stay Frosty” continue to get played? Probably because it’s a straight up rocker that’s fun and funny. While I was busy being jaded, Van Halen was busy partying. At a certain point, it’s easier to just give-in and love them. So you win guys, A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH rules.

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1. PSYCHEDELIC PILL by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. I am completely and utterly in awe of this album. Long, meandering, and epic, PSYCHEDELIC PILL was the one album this year that could have been released in 1968 or 1970 not no one would have blinked. Not because it sounds like it’s from that period in time, PSYCHEDELIC PILL is truly a record out of time: intensely personal and yet also very distant and spacy. This is a folk record. This is a jam-band record. This is a singer-songwriter album created by a full band. “Walk Like A Giant” is the work of an incredibly powerful wizard, hurling lightening bolts of rock. I had no idea Neil Young still had it in him to create such a potent work of pure genius. This doesn’t even sound like a comeback it sounds like he never left. Those who scoff at the albums longer cuts, of which there are a few, are missing the point. Like I said in my original review: “the album opens with “Drifting Back,” a 27 minute-long song that’s acts as a kind of sonic air lock, decompressing the listener into the album’s atmosphere. Or perhaps a better metaphor would be that’s a time machine. I like that better because PSYCHEDELIC PILL sounds like lost 1970’s record, with the lengthy “Drifting Back” serving as a trippy time tunnel to the past.” The free flowing extended jams are the destination, not the journey. PSYCHEDELIC PILL is an intricate album that I predict will endure as a kind of sonic evergreen, which will be studied and appreciated for decades to come. Do yourself a favor and check out this once-in-a-generation masterpiece.

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“Imagine A Jump”: The Greatest Van Halen/John Lennon Mash-Up

Last week while I was bunkered down in New York City, waiting for Hurricane Sandy to do her worst, my wife’s best-friend Becky bravely sacrificed her iPhone’s battery so that we might have some tunes by candlelight.  I love going through people’s iTunes, I find it a nice way to both get to know AND judge the shit out of someone.  My iTunes is an atrocious mix of the best and worst of rock, pop, jazz, country, and blues music.  There’s things in it that I’m proud of…and a lot that I’d rather you just skip over.

Imagine there’s no Red Rocker.

Becky’s iPhone was filled with a lot of her favorite bands: Green Day and Barenaked Ladies.  Not exactly my cup of tea, but I’d say I like both those bands enough.  Anyway, as I browsed her iTunes, I noted that she had Van Halen’s “Jump” one her phone twice: once from the album 1984 (GREAT album by the way) and again from a Greatest Hits compilation.  I laughed and pointed this out.  She had an explantation, but there was no need: “Jump” is great song so why NOT have it on your phone?

Becky loves it when I take pics of her sleeping, that’s why we’re such good friends.

Becky also had a large quantity of The Beatles on her phone, as well as some John Lennon solo stuff. That got me thinking, had Becky heard Mighty Mike’s “Imagine A Jump”? She hadn’t, and it really bummed me out.  Mighty Mike is this French DJ that does mind-blowingly awesome mash-ups.  Seriously.  Before Mighty Mike, I thought DJ’s and mash-ups were lame, but this guy’s Queen/Michael Jackson mash-ups changed my mind.

I strongly urge you to go on his blog and download/listen to all his songs, there’s not a single bad one in the bunch.

“Imagine A Jump” is one of Mighty Mike’s best.  It’s the acapella/vocals of Van Halen’s “Jump” merged with the hauntingly simple piano of John Lennon’s classic “Imagine.”  The best part? The (slowed down) vocals actually work with “Imagine.”  The upbeat, devil-may-care Van Halen song is transformed into a downbeat, depressing ode to suicide and desperation.  I know that doesn’t sound particularly fun but it’s actually a cheeky bit of fun.

This is amazing. Thank you Mighty Mike:

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THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO

Upon first hearing that the newly re-formed Beach Boys were recording a new album all I could do was smirk. Not in the playful, nice way but in the jaded slightly/evil manner. I didn’t want them to fail in their latest creative endeavor, I was just highly skeptical. The notion of 60+ year-old men still calling themselves The Beach Boys is pretty stupid if you think about it. These aren’t boys, not by a long shot. They’re not even just The Beach Men at this juncture–they’re The Old Beach Men. There’s been a lot of classic-rock bands reuniting (Black Sabbath, Van Hale, et. al) and thus far the results have been predictably mixed. Making matter’s worse is the fact that The Beach Boys have always had a checkered discography, and that’s being kind.

They did it! Those crazy son-of-a-bitches did it.

But before I get to The Beach Boys latest record, THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO (and my reaction to it), I’d like to take a moment to analyze why a band as historic and venerable as The Beach Boys would feel the need to lay it all on the line and record new material. I mean, at this point they can only lose, right? At a certain point our heros are only capable of failure, aren’t they? Brian Wilson could have ate/snorted himself to death after PET SOUNDS came out in the late 1960’s and I’d still think he was a genius. He didn’t need to come out of reunite to prove anything*. And if the album is bad, if THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO turned out to be a festering pile of shit his stock would plummet. PET SOUNDS would still remain but now I’d have this nasty (much fresher) taste in my mouth. As a true fan, I can forgive and ignore my heroes latter-day misses…but the greater music-listening public is much more fickle. And far less forgiving. Stumbling at this point in the career of The Beach Boys might not take away all the shine, but it could seriously tarnish their legacy. I guess the reason why these so-called dinosaurs of rock try to knock one last homerun out of the park is simple: it’s because they can. Sure, money and ballooning mortgage payments are probably a factor. And I suppose a bunch of snot-nosed, spoiled to-the-core-grandkids probably play a part, too. But in the end, Brian Wilson and Mike Love are writing and recording new material because they can. Think about how awesome that must feel–all you have to do is pick up the phone and tell an agent/record executive, “We want to do a new album” and the keys to kingdom are instantly yours, no questions asked. I would say that 99.999% of the artists living in the world today do not have that kind of clout, but would KILL to have that kind of capability. On a certain level I think it’s disrespectful when artists in this position chose to not use this freedom.

So while I’m sure ego and finances have some part in why I now get to write a review of brand-new Beach Boys record, I don’t think that’s the whole story. I think The Beach Boys like being The Beach Boys. And somehow they were able to put aside the bullshit and do what they should have been doing for years; what they were born to do which is write and record pop music. Now that said, before we envy them too terribly much, I think it’s worth pointing out that being The Beach Boys is probably the only thing these old men are really good at doing. From what I’ve read of Brian Wilson’s personal life, being a Beach Boy is pretty much the only truly great thing he ever did. His life, at least until recently (give or take a decade) has been a great shambling train-wreck (I’m looking at you Wilson-Phillips). His music, even as a solo artist has been pretty spotty; being a Beach Boy is his saving grace and ultimately his legacy. I don’t feel that any of us should worship or feel sorry for him (or any of them). Just like I am right-handed and bad at math, Brian Wilson can write fucking amazing melodies and compose beautiful arrangements. It’s not something he chose it’s just how he was made/what he is.

Okay, so I don’t think The Beach Boys set out to merely cash-in on their name (and it’s glorious bag of nostalgia). And I recognize they had more to lose than gain with releasing THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO…that’s all well and good but what do I think about the album? Well for starters, after I got over my bemusement over the fact that they’re still called “The Beach Boys,” the next thing that happened when I heard about this album was that I cringed. I cringed at that awful title. “That’s Why God Made The Radio”? What the hell does that mean? Are The Beach Boys saying that they’re the reason God, THE LORD ALMIGHTY made the RADIO!? I was really nervous as it seemed I they band might have finally gone off their rockers. The hubris I read into the title was thankfully misinterpreted. The title referes to the song by the same name that extolls the bliss of driving around and listening to the radio. “That’s Why God Made The Radio” is a song about a joy that few people of my generation can even comprehend. I won’t say that I forgot about how nice it is to drive around and enjoy the radio, but I hadn’t done it for awhile. Listening to this song made me put the FM back on in my car (that’s a good thing). The song is a basic ode to rock ‘n roll as well. It actually reminded me (a bit) of Argent’s “God Gave Rock ‘n Roll To You” which is another song about thanking the cosmic creator for musical bliss. “That’ s Why God Made The Radio” is a good song and when I heard it my hopes instantly rose for the rest of the album.

In fact, to my surprise, this album turned out pretty damn well. It doesn’t really add or subtract to the legacy of The Beach Boys, but we do get a couple of really good songs (and two fantastic ones). The first fantastic song on THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO is the third song on the album, “Isn’t It Time.” Mercifully credited to the ENTIRE band (The Beach Boys have a nasty history of not giving credit where credit is due) this song is worth the price of the album. On one level it’s a typical (stereotypical?) old-man rock song about how great things used to be and how they can still be great again. I guess on that level it’s an okay song, but as I listen to it, I can’t help but hear The Beach Boys responding to my initial question of “Why did The Beach Boys record a new album?” The answer comes in the lyrics of the third verse:

“The good times never have to end

And now’s the time to let them happen again

And we can have ourselves a blast

The good times they aren’t only in the past”

The sentiment is pure and even though it might be bullshit, I believe it: today can be just as good as yesterday (or whatever day was the best time of your life). To hear older people proclaim this is terribly comforting, especially to this eternal pessimist. This is what great art does, it acts as a buoy for our spirits.

The next track “Spring Vacation” also attempts to explain more concretely how the band reconciled and got back together (all those decades apart were just a super-long winter, I suppose). Maybe I’d dig this song more if it didn’t immediately follow “Isn’t It Time.” “Spring Vacation” doesn’t make my eyes well-up with emotion like “Isn’t It time,” but it’s a decent song I suppose.

The second fantastic song on THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO? This difficult for me to write, as I feel so damn conflicted about it. You see, I’m the sort of Beach Boy fan that likes PET SOUNDS and hates “Kokomo.” If you’re reading this and you like “Kokomo” you’re a terrible person. “Kokomo” is a horribly shitty song. It comes from a dark, dark period in Beach Boys history. The period where Brian was cast off and that bastard Mike Love was running the show, trying to cash-in with a quick-hit. Somehow he lucked out (scum always does float to the top, doesn’t it?) and “Kokomo” got slapped into a movie and it took the world by storm (a shit storm). Anyway I want you to understand that I don’t like Mike Love on a personal level. Everything I’ve read about him paints a picture of a spineless, manipulative, little Napoleon who took advantage of a fragile/abused person (B. Wilson) in order to profit.** So what has Mike Love done on THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO? He’s essentially reworked “Kokomo” as a new track, “Daybreak Over The Ocean.” I knew it from the very first second I heard it. I thought “Holy shit, he’s trying to recapture that hit…he’s trying to do another Kokomo.”

That dick.

And then I listened to it again. And again. And again. Shit, it’s a damn good song. I want to hate this song, but “Daybreak Over The Ocean” makes me love it despite myself. The production isn’t as crappy as the 80’s “Kokomo” and the emotion seems (a bit) more genuine…but it’s essentially “Kokomo.” The way-less-shitty version of “Kokomo.” And even though I don’t like Mike Love, and I detest “Kokomo” I think “Daybreak Over The Ocean” is THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO’s other truly amazing song.

The rest of the album is fair, with only two borderline embarrassing songs (which is actually really good for a Beach Boys record). The first dismal track is “The Private Life of Bill and Sue” which is comically-late attack on reality TV. The song smacks of trying to way too hard at be relevant/. The only way it could have been worse would be if they had rapped the song. Maybe they’re saving that for the next album. The other cringe-inducing moment is “Beaches In Mind” which is not only super-vanilla but littered with the word “fun.” I don’t know about you, but hearing the word “fun” is not the same as having fun. It doesn’t really tell me anything, it’s like “nice.” What the hell is nice? “Beaches In Mind” feels like filler which makes it the more noxious of the two songs–but make no mistake about it, both these songs are pretty bad and I cant’ see myself listening to them again, except maybe by mistake.

I had pretty high expectations for the last track “Summer’s Gone,” mostly because of Wilson’s haunting final track “Caroline No.” I was hoping for something equally memorable, and while it’s not terrible, “Summer’s Gone”*** is no “Caroline No.” It’s got pleasant chimes and a twinkling piano, and at the end we hear the sound of a rain storm come and washes away the album. All in all, it’s a fine song and fitting end to the album, I just was hoping for something a bit…more. And I guess overall that’s the worst thing I can say about THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO: it’s good but I was hoping for a bit more. It’s like I said earlier, our heros at a certain point can only fail. I guess that’s a pretty good problem to have. The Beach Boys might not have hit a homerun with this album, but they certainly didn’t strike out.

“The Really Old Beach Men” didn’t have the same ring to it…

FOOTNOTES:

* And yes, I have a few of his solo-records but it’s not the same thing. Not even his remaining of SMILE is the same as a new “Beach Boys” record.

**Love famously “didn’t get” (i.e. hated) PET SOUNDS and if he’d had his way it probably wouldn’t have been recorded.

*** I would be remiss not to point out that this song is (inexplicably) co-written by Jon Bon Jovi. How or why he was involved with this record is anybody’s guess.

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From the “Nobody-Could-Have-Seen-This-Coming-File”: VAH HALEN POSTPONE 31 SHOWS

Well imagine that, Van Halen are having a bit of turmoil!  Rolling Stone reported late this week that the classic rockers are “postponing” 31 shows. No one would say why, but a “source” close to the band said that “they hate each other” and that they can’t stop fighting.  Apparently they can’t even stop fighting to count all that money.  The band is currently still performing, but band reps let everyone know that after their June 26th show in New Orleans, the band isn’t going to play anymore shows.  But will the fans who bought tickets get to see the band?  Or see their money back? No one is talking in either the Van Halen-camp or the Live Natio-camp (Live Nation being the evil Corporate overlords).

Quick! Someone explain to Van Halen how capitalism works: You have a product, we pay for it…then you give it to us.

I, for one, am full of regret that I missed Van Halen when they recently rolled through St. Louis (I was at another concert) because I only heard awesome things.  Still, are we really surprised that Van Halen aren’t getting along and might back out of a mega-comeback tour?  The band is a potent concoction of “we hate each other.”  Podcaster Adam Carolla likes to ask Rolling Stone writer David Wild about the untold millions dunder-headed rockers leave “on the table” just because they can’t sack-up and get along.  I have no idea how much money Van Halen stands to lose if they don’t play these 31 remaining shows, but I’m sure it’s a phenomenal amount.  The Rolling Stone article quotes a promoter as saying that the shows have been selling really well, so the notion that the band is pulling out of the concerts because they aren’t selling enough tickets isn’t the case.

Anyway, if you have tickets for any of the following shows, you might want to start making other plans:

July 7: Uncasville, Ct., Mohegan Sun Arena
July 9: Hampton, Va., Hampton Coliseum
July 11: Philadelphia, Pa., Wells Fargo Center
July 13: East Rutherford, N.J., Izod Center
July 15: Baltimore, Md., 1st Mariner Arena
July 17: Rochester N.Y., Blue Cross Arena
July 19: Detroit, Mich., Joe Louis Arena
July 21: London, Ontario, John Labatt Centre
July 24: Toledo, Ohio, Huntington Center
July 26: Grand Rapids, Mich., Van Andel Arena
July 28: Cleveland, Ohio, Quicken Loans Arena
July 31: Fort Wayne, Ind., Allen County Memorial Coliseum
August 2: Columbus, Ohio, Schottenstein Center
August 4: Knoxville, Tenn., Thompson-Boiling Arena
August 6: Memphis, Tenn., FedEx Forum
August 8: Birmingham, Ala., BJCC Arena
August 10: Greenville, S.C., BI-LO Center
August 12: Cincinnati, Ohio, US Bank Arena
August 21: Spokane, Wash., Spokane Arena
August 23: Portland, Ore., Rose Garden
August 25: Sacramento, Calif.,Power Balance Pavilion
August 28: Fresno, Calif., Save Mart Center
August 30: Reno, Nev., Reno Events Center
September 4: Salt Lake City, Utah — EnergySolutions Arena
September 8: Albuquerque, N.M., Tingley Coliseum
September 11: El Paso, Texas, Don Haskins Center
September 13: Austin, Texas, Frank Erwin Center
September 15: Oklahoma City, Okla., Chesapeake Energy Arena
September 17: Wichita, Kan. – Intrust Bank Arena (WFT, I’m from that part of the world and I’ve never heard of this venue)
September 21: Moline, Ill., Iwireless Center
September 25: Milwaukee, Wis., Bradley Center

* * * * * *

UPDATE: I forgot to bash Wolfgang Van Halen in this post, for that I truly apologize.  In order to correct this oversight, let me just say that this is most likely all Wolfgang’s fault.  The band postponed these shows because Wolfgang is fat. 

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Mötley Crüe, Stage Theatrics, and “360 Drumming”

So last night I went to a concert (not Van Halen, though they were playing less than 2 miles from the show I was at)  and in between the opening band (Blood Orange, who I thought was pretty cool) and the main attraction (Florence + The Machine), the topic of Tommy Lee’s stupendously-stupid “360 Drumming” somehow randomly came up.

I’m not the world’s biggest Mötley Crüe fan, but I can acknowledge that they have a few pretty good songs.  Anyway, my best friend (a Fiona Apple kind of guy) had never heard of Tommy Lee’s stage antics, so I decided to track down a video.  I honestly thought it would be hard to find, I had no idea that as recent as last year Mötley Crüe was still using this schtick in their live act. You would think that after years of drug and alcohol abuse, ‘ol Tommy wouldn’t be able to hang upside down and bang the drums…but I guess he still can.

Not the first time Tommy Lee gave one of his fans a "ride."

Growing up I had a pretty big aversion to being upside down. I’m still not crazy about roller coaster loops, but I can do them because they’re usually mercifully brief. But hanging inverted like he does in the video below? Forget about it.  I know he’s strapped in there pretty good, but how the hell does he keep from dropping his sticks? Part of me wants to dismiss these shenanigans outright…but how is this any different than Jimi lighting his guitar on fire? Or Ozzy “biting” the heads off fake bats? Or Alice Cooper beheading himself? Theatrics have been a part of rock since the beginning, like Chuck Berry’s duck walk.  Something to think about.

Oh the humanity.

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A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH

It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong:  I have been wrong.  I thought this new Van Halen album was going to be another run-of-the-mill, Dinosaurs of Rock Ca$h grab.  I thought Van Halen were leveraging the last bit of goodwill the band had in order to pay for second (or third, or fourth) wives and grand babies (!).  In my defense, the band’s choice of “Tattoo” as the lead single was pretty bonehead (unless you think putting your worst foot-first is a good idea).

How's this for a different kind of truth: this band's new album isn't a horrendous mistake.

So I downloaded A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH on Friday, mostly because I have deep psychological problems/I hate myself.  To my shock, once you get past the floating turd that is “Tattoo,” the album is pretty damn good.  A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH is not so different from classic, late 1970s-era Van Halen.  The reason for this is because all these songs were written 30+ years ago by the band.  Yes, the “new” Van Halen album is full of cast-offs and throw aways (the B-sides, “b-sides” if you will) and while that might sound like a bad thing, it turns out it’s not.

Think about it terms of money: back in the day the young, kickass Van Halen wrote some songs and put them into a rock ‘n roll savings account.  You know, for when they were older and wanted to retire.  This “song savings plan” has paid Van Halen Corp. huge dividends in form of modern songs with a classic feel.  

But enough bullshit, let’s talk about the songs.

So like I said, the boys put their worst foot-forward with “Tattoo.”  It’s not only the lead single, but it’s also the first track of the record.  I’m not sure who it is in the Van Halen camp that has the massive hardon for this song, but I’m pretty sure it’s that fat-fuck Wolfgang.  Just kidding, I know Wolfgang’s opinons don’t matter (except to this daddy), I’m sure the whole organization thinks “Tattoo” is a “hip” modern-taken on Van Halen. But it sucks.

The rest of the album, however, is solid as a rock. The second track, “She’s A Woman” is, for me, the album’s true opener.  The lyrics are a bit much, with David Lee Roth howling about how normal he is….you know, he drives a Chevy and…lives in his car (?).  While I’m usually annoyed when millionaires wail about how blue collar they are, I decided to not bitch because the guitar work on this song is phenomenal.  In fact, Eddie Van Halen is on fire the whole record.  It’s pretty awesome to see that the dude can still shred.  And beyond that,  the playing isn’t contrived or robotic–nor is it a parody of his younger-self.  Diamond Dave’s voice is lower and rougher, but Eddie’s guitar playing is exactly as awesome as it was back in the day.

“You and Your Blues” should have been the first single, in my opinion.  It’s more understated than the dunderheaded “Tattoo,” but that’s why I like it.  The song has a great, chuggy-sounding guitar tone and a really awesome Rolling Stones reference in the lyrical hook.

My favorite track on A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH is “Blood and Fire.”  This was, you might recall, one of the tracks the band released partially leading up to the album’s release. It’s a great song and the lyrics fit an older, more mature Van Halen.  The band has “come through blood and fire” so to speak and the fact that they’re still standing should be a source of pride for them.  The car/racing metaphors are classic Van Halen and reminded me of “Panama.”  This is definitely one that they’re going to be playing live on the new tour.

Other standouts on the album include  the super-heavy “As Is” and the cheeky-as-hell “Stay Frosty.”  The latter being a spiritual sequel to “Ice Cream Man” off of Van Halen’s first record.  It’s worth noting that “Stay Frosty” with it’s acoustic guiar opening, is probably the only track to not come kicking and screaming out of the gate.  This is a hard-charing Van Halen record (which is probably why the album art is an old train, get it?  Old train).

Are there problems other than “Tattoo”? Of course.  David Lee Roth’s voice is rougher and his “raps” aren’t as funny as they used to be. There’s a particularly embarrassing one in the middle of “The Trouble With Never.”  The songs themselves are pretty good, but let’s face it–nothing on A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH is going to become a classic Van Halen song.  They aren’t going to play “Outta Space” or “Big River” at a ballgame.  These are leftover tracks and the only reason we’re accepting them is because we’ve lowered our collective expectations for Van Halen.

On the other hand, this album does not tarnish the Van Halen brand in any way.  I can crank it up in the summer time and not be embarrassed when I hit a stop light, which is nice. I think all parties involved have lucked out.  Having a backlog of songs to pull from has probably spared us all from a truly awful, gut-wrenching experience.  Our heroes didn’t fall, and for me that’s good enough. 

A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH gets a “B.”

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New(er) Van Halen Song Not A Complete Embarrassment

That new Van Halen album is coming out in about 2 weeks, and another song has been unveiled.  Well kinda, this time we only get a little bit of the song (like a minute and a half).  The track is called “Blood and Fire” and the most surprising thing about it is that it doesn’t completely suck.  Does it have that same vigor and excitement as the old Van Halen? Well…no, but then again these are old dudes (and one fat fuck*) that we’re talking about.

There's no stopping this train...let's just hope it dosen't completely embarrass itself.

Despite not getting to hear the whole thing I must say that overall it does fill me with a special kind of hope: that this new Van Halen album won’t be so shitty we’ll all be too embarrassed by it to admit that we like Van Halen.  At this point, if it just kinda sucks I’ll be happy.

Bottom line (Part I): The first song made me wretch, this one…not so much.  That’s good!

Bottom line (Part II): I’m gonna buy this album the day it comes and out bitch about it, because that’s all I’m good for these days.

Take a listen to (part of) this new Van Halen song and tell me what you think:

*I pick on Wolfgang only because I’m jealous**

**And he’s a lucky fat-fuck to be Eddie Van Halen’s son.

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Van Halen Announces 2012 Tour Dates, I Wank Dismissively

Well it looks like another Van Halen tour is really going to happen.  You can check out the complete list of dates over at the band’s website, but if you live in the continental United States Van Halen is playing in a city near you.  I’m sure the tickets will be super-pricy and I’m sure a majority of the dates will sell out.  I’m also sure that everyone is going to get up and go to the bathroom during “Tattoo” and the other two or three new songs they play.  I guess that’s just the way of the world.

Speaking of “Tattoo”  I have some rather disturbing news to report.  I’m afraid that all this week I’ve had the song running through my head. I haven’t really been humming or singing it per say…I just keep thinking about it.  Sort of like the musical equivalent of tonguing one’s canker sore.  It hurts me and every time I think about it I’m shocked and how much it hurts.  Not that I’m saying the song is like a canker sore (it’s worse, canker sores go away eventually, this piece of shit song is going to last until the end of time).

I really wish I’d been able to see Van Halen back in their heyday, but I’m going to be suckered by another “Dinosaurs of Rock” tour.  The last one that I saw, AC/DC was really fucking good.  In fact, AC/DC was better than they deserve to be considering. But the band I saw before that was The Police reunion, and let me tell you, that was downright disgusting.  I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead.  I guess that’s the problem with making the kind of loud, in-your-face, youthful music like Van Halen used to make: it’s pathetic when old dudes try to pull it off.  Besides, I’m not getting any younger myself and arena-rock shows just aren’t my bag anymore. Better leave those to the kids…

There's nothing wrong with being a fat kid...just don't be in Van Halen.

*SHUDDER*

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