New Release (Interscope)
The good news is that the whole album doesn’t sound like the single “Tattoo,” a rather forced attempt to rekindle the old frat-party vibe. The rest is far livelier than you’d expect from this long-dysfunctional band, toning down the pop and amping up the metal — The best track, “Chinatown” charges out like a speedier version of Rush’s “YYZ” with words. Wolfgang Van Halen acquits himself fine on bass; Michael Anthony’s absence mainly means no more 80s-style walls of harmonies, not that big a loss. David Lee Roth is audibly older but still himself; and “Tattoo” aside, the lyrics generally stay on the right side of the line between smart-silly and dumb-silly.
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