Album review: Van Halen, Balance (1995)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 2, 1995

By Steve Newton

Eddie Van Halen is surely one of the best guitarists in rock, but I’m getting sick of only being able to hear him within the confining and predictable framework of his current band’s (mostly) run-of-the-mill tunes. The band’s last few albums have contained only one or two superior tunes; not since 1984 has the group delivered a consistent collection of songs worthy of repeated play.

Perhaps the members of Van Halen recruited Vancouver’s Bruce Fairbairn to produce the new Balance because they figured he could do for them what he did for Aerosmith: produce the biggest album of their career. But VH doesn’t include tunesmiths of the calibre of Steve Tyler and Joe Perry, and it’s on the songwriting front that the majority of Balance teeters off the mark.

Apart from the catchy “Aftershock”—which brings to mind the spirited Van Halen of old—the band seems content to churn out the same mix of formulaic teenybopper pop, semiplodding shuffles, and limp love ballads it’s been doing since Hagar took over from David Lee Roth in 1986.

I’m not suggesting the band should rehire Diamond Dave and get back to the raunchy style of its early days, but it’s got to do something to get out of this spiraling slump. (In the meantime, that long-hoped-for Eddie Van Halen solo album sure would be nice—sometime before the year 2000, please.)

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