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Is Van Halen’s “Tattoo” Deserving of the Hoopla?

January 10, 2012

Do they feel tardy?

After 30 years of silence as far as new “singles” featuring David Lee Roth, Van Halen released “Tattoo” this morning on RollingStone.com to much excitement. While any new VH is cause for celebration, at least among the faithful, this song and familiar “Jump”-style video signals an attempt to return to their salad days.

The right elements, present: keening riffs and sharp soloing, muscular rhythm section, same keyboard tone in all your favorite tracks, and Diamond Dave sounds like, well, just a gigolo, if a bit gruffer and presumably no wiser. The track would fit right in on 1984, except for a few production refinements.

But.

Is that what die-hard, first-era loyalists deserve? It’s a mid-tempo, hard rock number that follows the same familiar trajectory south of the border, if you catch me. There’s nothing shocking or revelatory that deals with the band’s past or breaks some fresh ground, whether instrumentally or lyrically. Here’s a taste of what Dave’s had on his mind lo these many years:

Woo!
Tattoo, tattoo
Sexy dragon magic
Tattoo, tattoo
So very autobiographic
Tattoo, tattoo
Got a hold on me
Tattoo, tattoo
You put a spell on me-eeehhh

Baby-yeeeeeah

So what?

The tune ranks solidly average, and even if I don’t necessarily find it “inspirational” or “deep,” I have to give them credit for the fact that the guys can still sound just like themselves three decades ago—and, wonder of wonders, it’s still enjoyable.

Besides, while I liked some of the material from the Hagar/Cherone incarnations, David Lee Roth’s ironic lounge-cum-“golden god” flamboyance just compliments the musical prowess much better anyone else ever could. Van Halen (the band) is not a band to be taken seriously, other than Van Halen’s (the man) guitar legacy. Their new album, A New Kind of Truth, is set to be released on February 7, with a massive tour beginning February 18 in Louisville, KY. Somehow, even the “new” song (it may date from an unrecorded track from ’77) isn’t their best, there’s sufficient chemistry and musicianship to make me remember why VH ruled much of the FM airwaves when I was a kid.

 

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