Picks and Pans Review: 5150

updated 05/05/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/05/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Van Halen

What a difference a hit record makes. Last year Van Halen seemed to be on the ropes following the disruptive and bitter defection of David Lee Roth. His substitute, Sammy Hagar, seemed a desperation choice for the gaping hole in the rock quartet. That was before the recent release of Why Can't This Be Love, the first single released from this first album by the newly restructured group. From the opening seconds of that tune, it became apparent Van Halen was going to be just fine. There are times on 5150 (California police code for the criminally insane) when the band is obviously trying too hard, as with the insane velocity of Get Up—you could hurt yourself trying to dance to this—or with the smutty lyrics of Good Enough. But thanks to the expressive drumming of Alex Van Halen and the squealing frenzy of Eddie Van Halen's guitar, the band romps through most of this album. Eddie's fly-me-to-the-moon solos have never been more original. He is especially impressive on Summer Nights, with its brooding Led Zeppelin-like motif. Hagar howls. He whoops. He does everything but imitate an air raid siren with his voice. He still can't equal the outlandish razzmatazz of Roth, but he gets the job done. Van Halen is still the most vital, intense rock band in the land. (Warner Bros.)

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