Van Halen: Fair warning
04/05/12 || InquisitorGeneralis
“Fair Warning” is a shining gem in Van Roth’s discography. I’ve heard some people refer to it in some not-so-positive lights; it didn’t sell as well as others, it’s a “transitional” album, this was the beginning of the Roth/Eddie conflict that would split the band up, etc etc. All of this is biggity-biggity bullshit because “Fair Warning” is a fucking beast. It might not be the most well-known of the band’s Roth-fronted albums, falling behind “Van Halen”, “Van Halen II”, and “1984” in the minds of the general public, but it is definitely my favorite because it features several tracks that sound like nothing the band had ever done before, plus it contains my all-time top Van Halen single. There are a few uninspired moments, but “Fair Warning” is a masterpiece album that only strengthens my hatred for the type of hard rock that dominates the airwaves today. Bands like Dicksmack, Nicklefuck, and Five Finger Cock Punch are not fit to suck Van Halen’s toes, let alone be mentioned in the same category of music. When I see a rock show, I want explosions, huge stages, and tons of slutty, drunk chicks. Not a bunch of toolboxes singing about their feelings OR anything that even resembles the group of bozos that make up the Arcade Fire.
8. Right off the bat you get two of the most interesting, distinct songs Van Halen has ever made; “Mean street” and “Dirty movies”. They are bluesy, groovy, and very different from the blistering jams that put Van Halen on the map. Methinks this is the Eddie side of the equation coming through. “Mean street” is a proven radio hit with a catchy chorus and some seriously heavy riffs. “Dirty movies” sounds fucking dirty and would make a nice tune for a young lady to work the pole to. I always get serious wood when the main riff kicks in. However, the more pop-ish sounding tracks on here like “Hear about it later” are excellent just the same; said track having an amazing soft-intro, a killer guitar solo, and some genuine hard rocking at the end. “Sinner’s swing”, “So this is love”, and “Push comes to shove” are pretty straightforward rockers; nothing special but enjoyable just the same. The overall score here is brought down just a bit when you combine those three standard tunes with the unnecessary instrumental and “One foot out the door” which ends the album one a much less amazing note than the two tracks that open it.
Oh, did I forget something? MOTHERFUCKING “Unchained” baby! The ultimate Van Halen song; a riff so awesome it’ll make you want to slap your mother, a driving beat that chugs along like a freight train, and cool lyrics that don’t have a metaphor to fit this paragraph. More on those lyrics later. “Unchained” alone makes “Fair Warning” worth picking up.
9.5. Only a slightly muffled bass-drum sound keeps this from getting a perfect production score. Heavy guitars, a great bass sound, and a perfect vocal level make the production on here ace. Everything fits, everything works, and every instrument and voice sounds great. Next.
10. Wait, David Lee Roth’s vocals getting a 10? Are you smoking COCKcaine? Maybe, but that is not why the vox here get a perfect score. It is DLR’s signature delivery (which still sounding damn good on tape back the ze day) combined with Van Halen’s awesome use of backing vocals courtesy of Eddie and Michael Anthony. You know the best part of the chorus to “Unchained” is when those two chime in with…
Unchained! And you hit the ground running!
Those two’s old-school style backing vocals are the perfect complement to Roth’s outlandish, sometimes high-pitched style. It all clicks like dicks going into chicks, baby.
10. No other score does justice to Eddie Van Halen’s playing in the early 80’s. He nails each and every aspect of hard rock guitars; riffs, solos, intros, and melodies are all destroyed (in a good way) by Ed, Edd, and Eddy on “Fair Warning”. Let’s break this down in style!
Solos? Hear about it later has got you covered. Eddie nailed that one live last month too, dude has still got it.
Intros and melodies? Check out the opening sections to the previously mentioned “Mean street”, “Hear about it later” and Dirty movies! both are fucking amazing.
9. There are some fantastic moments on here where Mr. Anthony’s bass takes center stage, like the middle section of “Dirty Movies”. But, for the most part he plays the perfect complement to Alex Van Halen’s drumming, forming one of the most legendary rhythm sections in the history of rock. With Roth and Eddie running around screaming, yelling, kicking, and shredding their faces off it is easy to forget that Anthony and the other Van Halen brother provide the low-end uuummmpphhh that makes Van Halen stand out in the world of classic, heavy, hard rock.
9. Alex Van Halen is a true rock madman behind the kit. In this case, his ridiculously huge quadruple kick-drum fortress kit. He lays down sick grooves on “Mean street” and “Dirty movies”, catchy beats on “Sinner swing” and “So this is love?”, and delivers the expected thundering drives on the album’s centerpiece, “Unchained”. He only really lets his feet fly at the end of “Hear about it later”, which is a shame because Jeebus knows the dude can rip it on the bass drumsticks.
9. Cheesy, glammy, and awesome. You can feel the slime when Roth cries out…
Daddy’s little sweetie after some damn Rainbow
Got the big deal in the back of the limo!
Those lyrics always make me think of the creepy-as-fuck scene from “Boogie Nights” where they drive around looking for some random dude to bang Roller Girl. But I digress, another vocal highlight that always has me singing like a drunken Japanese businessman is the chorus to “Hear about it later”…
I’ve tried and convict, it’s winner take all
I want a run for my money, that’s all…I don’t wanna!
Cue the previously mentioned killer backing vocals from Mike and Eddie
I don’t wanna, hear about it later!
That’s enough specifics; the lyrics for “Unchained” and “Mean Street” kick ass too. You sing along to them each time you listen, you know you do. Accept it and move on.
7. Definitely one of the band’s least memorable covers, but I give it a few points for at least being outside the box. It is simply a copy of “The Maze” by William Kurelek. When I think Van Halen, I don’t think abstract, expressionist art. Still, I guess when compared to simple pictures of the band, the ban’s logo, or some fucking baby, it is not really that bad.
1. Fucking weak, where is the metallic VH guys? All we get here is the band’s name in white, simple letters. Fail in the logo department, homeboys.
N/A: Lost eons ago.
Overall and Ending Rant
I have always loved “Unchained” and “Mean street”, but it took seeing Van Halen live to make me fully investigate, and appreciate, “Fair Warning”. This is a great fucking rock record. It has a few missteps, but if every track on here was at the level of those the two I just mentioned and “Dirty movies”, this would be a 10 with no questions asked. While albums like the band self-titled debut, it’s follow up, and “1984” might be more loaded with popular hits, “Fair Warning” is loaded with just plain awesomeness. I would recommend this to any fan of classic and/or hard rock. “Fair Warning” rules, plain and fucken simple.
- Released: 1981
- Label: Warner Brothers
- Website: www.van-halen.com
- David Lee Roth: vocals
- Eddie Van Halen: guitar
- Micheal Anthony: bass
- Alex Van Halen: drums
- 01. Mean street
- 02. Dirty movies
- 03. Sinner’s swing!
- 04. Hear about it later
- 05. Unchained
- 06. Push comes to show
- 07. So this is love?
- 08. Sunday afternoon in the park
- 09. One foot out the door