Sound — 10
When I first heard "Tattoo", I couldn't believe I was hearing Van Halen, as close to original lineup, releasing new material. However, "Tattoo" was slow, slightly predictable, and not as mind-blowing as the first licks of "Mean Street" off "Fair Warning". However, after I realized that the song had turns, twists, rugged playing with refined tone, I started to love hearing it. Moving into "She's The Woman", we hear more of Eddie's new modernized playing style: a mix of pick squeals, wah pedal howls, and plenty of tapping. Songs like "You And Your Blues", "Blood And Fire", and "As Is" really stick to you thanks to Dave's clever lyrics and catchy vocal melodies. "Honeybabysweetiedoll" gives way to more experimentation, an ode to Intruder from "Diver Down", and also marks a really strange alien-esque style of music that Ed can produce. The sustainer pickup is clearly a new favorite toy of his, and it's used well, not all the time but enough to characterize the song. Overall, this sound is a mix of "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" and "1984", the former being dominant, with enough characteristics and distinction to be called a brand new style to Van Halen.
Lyrics — 8
A song about tattoos, another about the band getting back together, and Buddhist monks? While more casual listeners and Van Halen new-timers may find this album completely ridiculous, fans of even just the first Van Halen album will feel at home. Dave has some clever lyrics such as "no light at the end of the tunnel due to budget constraints", "my karma runs over your dogma", and "the crazy stuff we never say poetry in ink". You can't call them the greatest lyrics in the world, but most of the songs have gotten a laugh from me, and a lot of the singing becomes catchy and caught in your head. The only problem with singing is that Dave's voice is starting to take its toll, and it can get annoying how a lot of the songs have spoken word sections (probably due to his voice being weakened over years). Regardless, the album is tight, organized, and lyrically one of the best. You will hear at least two or three classic David Lee Roth shouts.
Overall Impression — 9
After a year of mainly alternative, nu metal, and of course pop albums, I could not even begin to compare this album to others. I haven't heard an album with such incredible playing and fun songs in a while, and the balance of the album, both classic Van Halen and a more heavy-metal refined Van Halen, completes it. Although classic rock fans may be discouraged by their age, the lack of old-fashioned recording style, and perhaps the 80s band craze, I guarantee that this is a historic hard rock album. In 2012, you can sound like it's "1984" all over again.