Picks and Pans Review: Ou812

updated 07/11/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/11/1988 01:00AM

Van Halen

Another rootin' tootin' rock album from Van Halen. Yawn. These guys are so predictable it would be sickening if they weren't so good. With each of their eight albums, the quartet has refined and improved their frisky hard rock style. OU812 is yet another stepping stone in their development. From the densely packed rock of Mine All Mine to the crash-and-burn boogie of A.F.U. (Naturally Wired), the boys are fine-tuned. Both of these songs contain blistering solos from Eddie Van Halen, whose frantic guitar genius matches the pace of the band's steady growth. Eddie's fret work—even at its most abridged, as on When It's Love—is intoxicating. With his increasingly inventive chord structures and the more prominently displayed high-low trip-hammer drumming of brother Alex, the Van Halens have moved the instrumental mood of OU812 much closer to the province of Led Zeppelin than ever before. That propinquity is most evident on Cabo Wabo. Overall, Sammy Hagar has come to fit in pretty well as the group's lead singer too. Of course, he's utterly lacking in grace, wit or distinction, but this isn't exactly Lord Chesterfield's Parlor Warblers we're talking about here. If nothing else, the mop-headed Hagar has enough sheer voltage in his voice and stage persona to fill out the lineup until VH finds a permanent replacement for David Lee Roth. What, you mean he's it? Boy, that decision is likely to haunt Van Halen. Probably shave at least five or six copies off the 7 million OU812 will sell. But have you noticed that since Hagar joined the band, the album titles have gotten weird? There was 5150, for a California Highway Patrol code (for criminally insane) and now OU812 (as in "Oh, you ate one too"). These look more like the signatures of graffiti artists than record titles, but who cares. Slap the platter on the turntable and let's rock. Van Halen makes perfect sense when the music is blaring. (Warner Bros.)

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