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Women and Children First

Van Halen

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Album Review

After two pure party albums, the inevitable had to happen: it was time for Van Halen to mature, or at least get a little serious. And so, Women and Children First, a record where the group started to get heavier, both sonically and, to a lesser extent, thematically, changing the feel of the band ever so slightly. Where the first two records were nothing but nonstop parties, there's a bit of a dark heart beating on this record, most evident on the breakneck metal of "Romeo Delight," but also the pair of opening party anthems, "And the Cradle Will Rock" and "Everybody Wants Some!!," which don't fly quite as high as "Dance the Night Away" or "Runnin' with the Devil" because of the tense, roiling undercurrents in Eddie's riffs, especially the thudding, circular keyboard riff propelling "And the Cradle Will Rock." The very fact that a keyboard drives this song, not a guitar, is a signal of Eddie's burgeoning ambition (which would soon become inseparable from his desire for respectability), and there are already some conflicts between this somber musicality and David Lee Roth's irrepressible hunger for fun. Where that tension would eventually tear the band apart, here it just makes for compelling music, adding richness and depth to this half-hour blast of rock & roll. This is the first Van Halen album to consist entirely of original material and there's some significant growth here to the writing, evident in the winding, cynical neo-boogie "Fools" and also in the manic "Loss of Control," which gallops by with the ferocity of hardcore punk. These, along with all previously mentioned songs, are the heaviest music Van Halen has made (or would ever make), but as the album rushes toward the end Diamond Dave pulls them toward his country-blues jive fixation with "Take Your Whiskey Home" and the all-acoustic "Could This Be Magic?" giving the album a dose of levity that is welcome if not necessarily needed. Then, before the album comes a close, the band unleashes its first stab at a power ballad with "In a Simple Rhyme," where the group's attempts at melodic grace are undercut by their compulsion to rock. This may not make for a full-fledged power ballad, but this tension between the two extremes — by their increasing songcraft and their unhinged rock & roll — makes for dynamic music, and captures all the contrasting glories of the album in one song.

Customer Reviews

Eponymous

Sitting here in my London bolthole with little or nothing to do, a review of the finest heavy rock album ever seems the perfect way to while away the time. I have always been amazed by my American cousins' failure to grasp irony. Oscar Wilde wrote that we are 'two people seperated by a common language' and I believe he had a point. David Lee Roth, whilst not quite up there with our Ozzie was also pretty hot on irony and it flies from every corner of this album. The self-styled plagiarist DLR must have been given the reins for this album in a sort of bizarre Faustian pact with Edward Van Halen. It would explain why Van Halen II, the previous opus, was utter tosh and 'WaCF' a work of utter genius. The title of my reveiew is based on my distress at, 25 years after the release of this record, having yet to find anything to compare. I invoke our Lord because, truth be told, I must be mental. Has civilization so failed me? Do I so lack the ability to look beyond this record and branch out? Hang on, this is an album review, not an attempt at psychoanalysis. My job is to, through the strength of my pen, get the reader to abandon his/her Celine Dion collection and go and buy this record. Maybe my English background helped me, we're fond of the genre, get the crashing irony behind this album in one. Helmut Newton is the album photographer for God's sake and the band chose a picture of a semi-clad DLR padlocked to an iron fence for the album artwork - it's right up there with Lou Reed cross-dressing for 'Transformer'. This might give the impression that the record is packed with soul-searching, politically inspired hubris. It isn't. It's a scream from track 1. Bum notes abound, there's hardly a hummable tune in sight, the production is kept to a minimum and, unless I am very mistaken, the lyrics are improvised. I hope and believe that the band turned up pissed, cut an album in 3 days and hoped the public would swallow it hook, line and sinker. They succeeded.

A classic

When I first heard this I hated it-boring rubbish.Now,years later, it,s one of my favourites-a really underrated album full of great songs and classic Van Halen moments.Brilliant from start to finish.

Coming of age

After the rushed effort that was Van Halen II, Women and Children First starts off with a raucous overdrive piano riff from Mr. Van Halen, And the Cradle (will indeed) Rock! All the way through to until the acoustic Could This Be Magic, the album rocks, and finishes with the sublime In a Simple Rhyme. Highlights for me are Romeo Delight with one of the best riffs ever, Take You Whiskey Home, And the Cradle Will Rock, Fools, In a Simple Rhyme and Could This Be Magic. Everybody Wants Some is cool, but not in the same stratosphere (maybe just bobbing below) and Tora! Tora! / Loss of Control just don't do it for me. Overall, an essential Van Halen buy

Biography

Formed: 1974 in Pasadena, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

With their 1978 eponymous debut, Van Halen simultaneously rewrote the rules of rock guitar and hard rock in general. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen redefined what the electric guitar could do, developing a blindingly fast technique with a variety of self-taught two-handed tapping, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and effects that mimicked the sounds of machines and animals. It was wildly inventive and over the top, equaled only by vocalist David Lee Roth, who brought the role of a metal singer to near-performance...
Full bio