I remember as a little tyke - out of all of the early Van Halen records - spinning this one the most, because of sheer curiosity. It was not like the others. The other albums had the occasional dark tune or weird-ass riff, but this one was all gloom and doom, for some odd reason, right smack dab in the middle of the band's ascent to eventual big-time stardom. Even as a young'un', something in me wondered - where did this come from?
For me, this is Eddie's unquestioned artistic peak. But he certainly was in an ornery mood putting these tunes together, because the dark shroud over everything is practically inescapable. Let us move on….
A1 "Mean Street" - Every time I hear this I think to myself Eddie re-listened to "Runnin' with the Devil" and then decided to cut a second, more advanced take on the tune, consisting of the following elements - 1) a really insanely awesome, effects-laden intro from his guitar, 2) a hybrid arena-rock/swinging punk-style stomper for the main section of the track, where Dave has all of these great desperate lyrics reflecting the mindset of street people, and the rhythm section sounds top-notch, and 3) a quiet section which leads to an amazing crescendo, accompanied by a great Eddie solo, and finally the song's fadeout.
Just classic beyond belief.
A2 "Dirty Movies" - This one is more of a Dave spotlight, as he gets to riff on a high school prom queen's fall into naked flicks, and his enjoyment of them. But while Dave is getting his jollies ("GO SEE BABY NOW"), which are admittedly hilarious, Eddie fires off yet another amazing solo in the most effortless fashion.
A3 "Sinner's Swing!" - This is in the mold of up-tempo swing-rock anthems such as "I'm the One" and "Hot for Teacher" but much darker in character, with Dave talking about darkening some woman's door, and the rest of the band in bad-ass full-tilt mode.
A4 "Hear About it Later" - It says on the Classic Van Halen site that Eddie wrote this on the keyboard, and oddly enough, it sounds like he did. Of course, if it showed up on 5150 or OU812 with Sammy on vocals, then people would say it was a different, inferior tune, which shows how much they know about music.
B1 "Unchained" - I should not have to tell you how classic this one is. Just go out and buy this album, for this song alone, and witness the greatness of this band. Not just Eddie, but everything about it is on-point - even the banter between Dave and Ted Templeman ("Come on Dave, gimme a break!") which was a mistake that they decided to leave on.
B2 "Push Comes to Shove" - Van Halen doing reggae, which means it was a Dave thing. Probably the only track here I am not a fan of, but it's OK, and it does fit with the general mood of the record.
B3 "So This is Love" - Talk about not fitting in with the general mood of the record! This happy little rocker harkens back to the party style of the first three albums and was the obvious choice for the single.
B4 "Sunday Afternoon in the Park" - Part one of the album's weird but appropriate ending. A synthesizer ditty cooked up by Eddie that was dedicated to his then-new wife.
B5 "One Foot Out the Door" - According to Classic Van Halen, this was actually recorded by the band with one foot out the door. The synthesized guitar sounds like a bit King Crimson-esque to my ears.
Other Thoughts - The album cover used to both freak me out and intrigue the hell out of me. Also, this was the lowest-selling album of the "Van Roth" years. That does not surprise me, but then how come "Unchained" is one of their most played tracks on radio? Or at least it seems like that is the case?