Van Halen - OU812
Warner Bros. Records
Melodic Hard Rock
10 songs (50:44)
Release year: 1988
Van Halen, Warner Bros. Records
Reviewed by Aleksie
Archive review
If 5150 didn’t do the trick in shooing off the most puritan fans of Van Halen’s gritty, early days, then the follow-up, OU812, should’ve definitely given the hardcores still sticking around some convulsions. An increase of keyboards, increase of the poppy vibes and a definite increase of slick sheen in the production department were the order of the day for the group in 1988. But as with its predecessor, I really like this album as well and it’s not as if there's no material for the “hardcores” as well. To get the redundant out of the way, yes: Eddie’s scorching solos are still all over the place and they rule. Fear not.

But before talking about the music, I love the album for the title alone. OU812. Get it? Say it out loud, but slowly, emphasising each letter and number. Writing it down phonetically can also do the trick. Basically, we’ve got an abbreviation of "Oh, you ate one too". Now consider this in connection to the title of David Lee Roth’s 1986 solo debut album, Eat ‘Em And Smile. Yes, you’re free to believe that the source of OU812 is solely from either of its earlier appearances in the 70s TV-show Taxi or Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie, but to me this apparent light-hearted pot shot at their former singer is too great not to believe. I really have no side in the feud as I love ‘em both (yeah, I guess that would still make me a cop), but I just can’t help but love this hypothetical detail.

The musical side starts off with a heavily synthed-up Mine All Mine, which does bring the guitars for a taste of the rock too but overall it represents the “futuristic” side of VH very aptly. The continued changes in the group's sound are pushed even more heavily as the obligatory mega-ballad of the album, When It’s Love, follows up. Really sappy and really piano-driven as it is, I fully admit loving a good ballad and to me this is a really good ballad. When much of the sappiness is laced with the perfection that is Michael Anthony’s harmony vocal work, I’m just sold. A.F.U. (Naturally Wired) finally brings respite to the old school fans with crunchy guitars, fast beats and Sammy Hagar screeching his pipes out extremely commendably (and speaking about redundant, I shouldn’t need to elaborate that his singing is top-notch throughout).

As right now there is an anomalic heat wave sweeping through Finland, I might be biased to comment on Cabo Wabo (Hagar's loving ode to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico) at this very moment, but not only is it my favourite track off this album, it’s one of those perfect summer songs. With oodles of swagger in its mighty groove and a vibe that instantly takes you to the beach, it’s one of those perfect tunes to accompany a few cool brews. The good times roll strong with the rapid-paced rock monster that is Source Of Infection. Awesome song, especially due to the Hot For Teacher-esque widdly-lead-guitar-intro.

This record would easily hit an above 80 score from me if not for Feels So Good. By far the poppiest tune on the disc, drenched in a flaccid sea of synths (and hey, generally I love synthesizers), this one’s just plain boring. It’s like the limp twin of Why Can’t This Be Love, not just nearly as alright. Every time I listen to OU812, I pretty systematically skip this one. Not even Michael Anthony’s wails can save it, like he almost does with the otherwise bland rock-number, Black And Blue. Luckily sandwiched between these two misses is Finish What Ya Started, an acoustically driven number dominated by EVH’s countryfied chicken picking-riffage. Usually I can’t stand any hints of country music but this tune again has the swagger to make things really cool. Tell me that chorus doesn’t latch into your head in a pleasurable instant, I dare you. Sucker In A 3 Piece is another quality up-tempo rocker which takes us to the oddball-cover tune at the end, A Apolitical Blues by American 70s rockers Little Feet, which is given an appropriately bluesy treatment, slow and churning. It's not bad at all but doesn’t add that much to the whole package.

All in all, at face value OU812 carries on even more heavily with the “corporate” stylings that came into play with the entrance of Sammy Hagar on 5150 but beneath the gleaming surface there is a lot more hard rocking than this album usually gets credit for. While not anywhere near Van Halen’s greatest achievement, pop this sucker in, crack open the keg, omit Feels So Good and you should be having a damn good party going on.

Killing Songs :
When It's Love, Cabo Wabo, Source Of Infection, Finish What Ya Started & Sucker In A 3 Piece
Aleksie quoted 79 / 100
Other albums by Van Halen that we have reviewed:
Van Halen - A Different Kind Of Truth reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 95 / 100
Van Halen - Best Of Volume I reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
Van Halen - Van Halen III reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 40 / 100
Van Halen - Balance reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 72 / 100
Van Halen - Live: Right Here, Right Now reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
To see all 15 reviews click here
2 readers voted
Your quote was: 99.
Change your vote

There are 3 replies to this review. Last one on Fri Jun 11, 2010 5:35 pm
View and Post comments