Finally, after seemingly an eternity, the first new music from Van Halen with David Lee Roth, the song Tattoo, went live this past week.
Well, actually, as it turns out, the song isn't totally new, it’s actually based on old Van Halen material that goes way back to the club days.
As recently reported here on TG and Blabbermouth, the new Van Halen album, A Different Kind of Truth, which will be released on February 7, has at least two old songs from way back in the day from VH: She’s the Woman and Bullethead.
As noted above, Tattoo is based on an old club days tune, Down in Flames. Comparing the two songs side by side, it is indeed pretty much the same song, and parts of it also wound up on Van Halen’s cover of You’re No Good, which appeared on Van Halen II.
So once the full song got out in the world, it’s clearly not Jump or Hot For Teacher, but it’s not a complete trainwreck either, although you wonder why Roth’s out of tune vocal yelps weren’t autotuned in the studio.
Still, the question remains, with so many years in between albums, why are Van Halen going back to a bunch of old tunes that initially weren’t good enough to make any previous albums? Couldn’t they come up with a completely new album, especially considering Eddie’s always insisted that Van Halen not ride on the past?
Although many will deride the Hagar era of Van Halen, you have to give Ed and Sammy credit for what the band did on the 5150 tour. They sang almost no old songs live, there was no official video, and the band insisted the new music do the talking.
Similarly, Robert Plant showed enormous cajones when Led Zeppelin broke up and he embarked on a solo career. For years, he refused to do any Zeppelin songs live, and insisted that his career not ride on yesterday’s news. (Eventually he felt comfortable enough with Zeppelin’s legacy to start bringing their songs back into their live set, but it was nearly ten years after Zep broke up).
He’ll never have the cajones to do it in a million years, but let’s see Axl go out there and do all new "GNR" material and no Appetite songs, especially considering how much contempt he has for his former bandmates, as well as the fans who desperately want a GNR reunion.
It’s an old show biz saying, but you’re truly only as good as your last performance. The past is great, Van Halen’s old tunes are great, we all know that, but if all they’re gonna do is a bunch of old sh*t that at the newest is pushing thirty, it’s bound to get old. (And you’ll never hear Roth doing Hagar era VH in a million years).
The real test will be the rest of the album, especially the all new tunes. So far, not so bad, and if the rest of the album’s the same level of quality, again, not VH at peak power, but not a complete disaster either.