After all the lousiness and anger and general grey clouds that persisted throughout 2011, I’ve decided to adopt a more cheerful outlook for 2012—because in the face of a crumbling world, not to mention a thousand pounded-out posts and anonymous commenters screeching that 99% of everything sucks, it’s even more important to burrow down and unearth the good in this planet’s people, places, and things. To that end, here’s the new feature Keeping It Posi, a sincere attempt to find the good in what the Internet has deemed truly unworthy, or at least crappy enough to get angry about for five or so minutes. To christen this feature, I’ll examine two recent entries from rock bands who have traveled bumpy roads: “Drive By,” the new single by the San Francisco bubblegum-rock outfit Train, and “Tattoo,” the new single from the re-Rothified Van Halen.
Train, “Drive By”
What: “Drive By,” from their forthcoming album.
The complaints: The band’s search for soul wasn’t nearly long enough; will probably be blanketing Lite-FM outlets by the end of this week, if not, say, tomorrow.
Three nice things:
1. The ukulele is mixed way down, if it’s present at all. This artistic choice alone vaults it over “Hey, Soul Sister” in the pantheon of Train tracks. Good work, everybody.
2. The bridge. I’ve been on a bit of a “where’s the bridge” kick lately, so much so that you’d think my new rallying cry was “The Crunge.” The bridge on “Drive By”—it starts at the 2:14 mark and ends shortly after that—recalls none other than Billy Joel, which is odd because Pat Monahan spends a lot of the song sounding not like himself, or even like the Piano Man, but like a singer paying tribute to a post-Autotune-era Anthony Kiedis. More like that, please!
3. The “i” and “ooh” vowel sounds in the lyrics make things a little more upbeat. Still not really sure what sort of sexual deviancy the reference to a “Hefty two-ply” is supposed to allude to, though.
Van Halen, “Tattoo”
Who: Los Angeles rock legends Van Halen, who are on the cusp of releasing a full-length with original frontman David Lee Roth for the first time since 1984.
What: “Tattoo,” from their imminent album A Different Kind of Truth.
The complaints: Michael Anthony’s absence; music drags in a way that makes it sound like it was held over from the Hagar era; opening line about having “Elvis on my elbows” is but the tip of the bad-lyric iceberg.
Three nice things:
1. Still feeling goodwill from Thursday night. You guys, don’t harsh my mellow!
2. It’s always fun when Roth drops his voice real low. See: the 1:24 mark. Supporting evidence: The Twilight Zone-like opening to the “California Girls” video.
3. Roth’s voice might be a bit ragged from age (he is 57, you know), but even on third-tier tracks, few things are as sublime as hearing it square off with Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. Come on, people.