Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Van Halen - 5150
When it was announced that Sammy Hagar would be taking over the lead vocalist position in Van Halen, David Lee Roth made an observant statement about his replacement.
I’m paraphrasing, but the line went something like “Sammy Hagar has made a lot of good albums, but Van Halen made great albums.”
And that’s exactly what Van Halen’s first offering with Sammy Hagar is, a good Van Halen record.
What Diamond Dave fails to acknowledge is that II and Diver Down aren’t exactly great albums either, but it’s obvious that he’s correct in declaring that Sammy Hagar has never been the kind of guy that can claim to have a classic record under his belt as a solo artist.
You’d get no argument from me that the first Montrose album could be a must have, but Hagar’s solo work is filled with big hook-laden chorus and a bunch of shit thrown together for verses in between.
The same is true when he has Eddie Van Halen working with his for 5150-the pair make some great music together when everything aligns for the chorus, but just getting there proves to be a challenge. Hagar’s lyrics are so dimwitted that he makes Roth seem like fucking Shakespeare and to think that Eddie Van Halen is actively encouraging this behavior is almost unsettling.
The best example is “Summer Nights,” a song that fits perfectly into any summertime bonfire or make-shift party, that is until you realize that Hagar is actually pining for a hook up by referring to the opposite sex as “human toys.”
At one point, Hagar is such a lazy bastard that he doesn’t even bother to follow up the line “Them girls are biting good tonight” with another verse. Instead, he just gives a pointless “Awww” instead of finishing the lyric.
5150 is filled with lots of good songs that are sure to complement any party, but there’s hardly a tune on it that would stick to your conscious the way a comparable Diamond Dave tune.
This album played incessantly the summer it was released and I remember being quite shocked at how good it actually turned out after fearing for the worst. It remains as Hagar’s best work with the band, but it hardly was good enough to not have me wishing that they’d hire Roth back and send Sammy packing for his own blend of arena medicraty.
With Roth they transcended the juvenile script while with Hagar it seemed that the opening act pomp was dragging Van Halen down to the circuit that they seemed to leave behind in ’78.