Archives for February 2012

Van Halen Remembers How To Not Suck

I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. My favorite band ever has reunited and made their first album together in 28 years, an album I’ve anticipated and feared in nearly equal measure for as long as I can remember. Anticipated, because it seems such a massive cosmic injustice that the band that so effortlessly fused Big Loud Rock with Disco Dance Party has spent the last three decades pointing fingers at each other, talking smack, and (worst of all) making bad records. I’ve missed this band’s signature sound for my entire adult life, in no small part because even after all these years it remains sui generis, a totally unique sound that no other act has ever come near duplicating. Feared, because over the course of those three decades everyone involved has been diligently submitting proof that they’ve all forgotten how to do anything but suck.

Everybody loves original Van Halen. When you ask them (or at least, when I ask them), people invariably say, “I love original Van Halen, with David Lee Roth — Van Hagar, not really.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “I don’t like Van Halen,” and I don’t think I have ever known anyone who preferred the Hagar era to the Roth era (though the Internet certainly tells a different story). I loved Roth-era Van Halen so much, I talked myself into the first two Sammy records just so I wouldn’t have to let go. But even I never listened to Balance (the last record with Hagar) or Van Halen III (the one with Gary Cherone).

When they finally got back with Diamond Dave in 2007 and toured, I and quite a few of my friends went to see them to the tune of $150 a ticket. I can think of no better illustration of the early MTV generation’s enduring love toward this band with this singer. Yet, oddly, my informal polling reveals that in the two weeks since Van Halen released A Different Kind of Truth, their first record with David Lee Roth since 1984, exactly nobody I know has listened to it. I say oddly because quite unlike the early ’80s, it is possible to listen to most new albums (this one included) for free on Spotify or whatever. I have been listening to this thing a lot for the last two weeks and I want to talk to someone about it, but I can’t because no one has heard it and apparently doesn’t care to.

I can understand that: as much goodwill as the original band still enjoys (strangely, considering how little goodwill they had for each other), they did so, so, so much to wreck it in the last 15 years. First, under the expert tutelage of Sammy Hagar, they learned how to suck. They put out a few bad records. Their performances became erratic. And then they went on a Nixonesque firing spree, terminating Sammy Hagar, David Lee Roth, and Gary Cherone in a three-year period, and then firing Sammy Hagar again after a disastrous reunion tour a few years after that. They became the worst thing a rock band can be: they became a joke. Read More

Elton John vs. Madonna: The Real Super Bowl

Last Sunday the stage was set for a Super Bowl showdown of epic proportions. The two sides had met before, and there was clearly a lot of bad blood between them, so there was a lot at stake in the rematch: pride, bragging rights, the chance to avenge a humiliating upset loss.

I refer of course to Elton John and Madonna, who have been locked in a bitter blood feud since Elton’s acceptance speech at the 2004 Q Awards, where he won the (honorary) Classic Songwriter Award and Madonna won the Best Live Act Award. Elton said a perfunctory word of thanks before devoting the rest of his remarks to his fellow winner:

“Madonna, best fuckin’ live act — fuck off! Since when has lip-syncing been live? I think everyone who lip-syncs when you paid 75 quid to see them should be shot.”

Madonna’s flack countered soon after: “Madonna does not lip-synch, nor does she spend her time trashing other artists.” Indeed, it must be noted that this feud is pretty one-sided in terms of public sniping. This comment is the closest Madonna has come to (publicly) insulting Sir Elton, though I imagine that behind closed doors her comments on the matter were tart enough to make her almost drop her mysterious accent.  Read More

Sean Young and Winona Ryder Are Awful, Irredeemable Monsters

Remember that thing with Kate Moss a few years ago? She got caught on videotape snorting coke (something she had long been known to indulge in from time to time — she’s a famous model, after all). When photos of this completely unsurprising piece of news hit the English press, she promptly lost most of her endorsement deals, H&M and Chanel among them, and for a few weeks the 24-hour news celebricycle busied itself with pronouncing her career completely dead once and for all.

Twelve months later, she signed 18 high-profile deals and became totally ubiquitous for the next few years, her visibility higher even than when she was dating Johnny Depp. For once, the dramatic high-profile fall from grace didn’t even have time to fade from memory before the triumphant comeback campaign was over and won.

The celebrity highway is littered with the corpses of personal scandals, misdeeds, and embarassments, nearly always reported by a breathless celebrity press as “career-killing.” Sometimes these things are legitimately terrible deeds, sometimes not. But let’s play a little game and look at some supposedly career-ending scandals and see if they have anything in common. Read More