Van Halen: Tattoo

I’m sure most classic rock fans will have checked out the video for Van Halen’s new single, Tattoo – the teaser for their comeback album, A Different Kind of Truth – by now. I’ve been digesting it myself over the past few days, intrigued, if initially somewhat sceptical, about what this long-anticipated development in the thirty-odd year old soap opera that is Van Halen might yield. Like many fans, I still feel queasy about their unceremonious ditching of Michael Anthony, and, while the David Lee Roth-fronted return was clearly going to be a successful venture in commercial terms, as a touring circus, the question of whether the latest version of the band could deliver an album worthy of the legendary name – after, let it not be forgotten, an almost Chinese Democracy-equalling gap since the disastrous Van Halen III – was always going to be rather more vexed. The last time the band released new material featuring DLR, on 1996’s Best of: Volume I compilation, the results were less than spectacular: one decent song (Me Wise Magic) and one good song (Can’t Get This Stuff No More). Fortunately, there is enough about Tattoo to suggest that the current protagonists have been much more successful in getting the collective Van Halen mojo back than was the case with the classic line-up, on that strange and abortive reunion. A strutting, guitar-heavy, mid-tempo rocker, very much in the vein of classic Van Halen, the song pulsates with the familiar Roth swagger and features a scorching solo from the guvnor that will fairly bring a tear to the eye of long-standing fans. Alex’s drums, so much a part of the band’s distinctive sound, are very much in your face, as he batters the overheads in his signature style and, while many fans will miss the snarl of Mr Anthony’s equally fierce bass playing, the drummer seems to have established a sound partnership with Wolfgang (Eddie’s son), that will keep the Van Halen engine room in very good working  order. Tattoo is not a classic by any means, but I’m pleased to be able to say that it shows enough potential to tease us with the possibility that, at last, this all-time great rock band could be back, in a meaningful way.

I certainly hope so.

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