http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/f157544e00fb13b03ee17e1510ffd17668b36d4b.jpg Balance

Van Halen


Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3.5 0
March 23, 1995

Van Halen's 11th album brings a few surprises. While Eddie's new look, a goatee and chopped pompadour, may seem a nod to the plaid-clad ranks, there's nothing alternative about Balance. Nor, despite the Buddhist chanting that kicks off the disc, is there anything otherwise chic.

Balance is pro forma pomp rock — but with VH in top form, power aplenty remains in their slick machine. Their ensemble expertise confirmed with the massive Live: Right Here, Right Now (1993), Van Halen continue as passionate mechanics, constructing pop metal that, for all its lack of hip, provides dependable delights.

Actually, some of the best young guns — Pearl Jam's Mike McCready, Soundgarden's Kim Thayil — owe loads to Edward. Reinventing banshee guitar, he multiplied its effects, emphasizing precision and harmonics as much as distortion and speed. The new school paid attention. On Balance, as always, Eddie dominates: Phat riffing sends straightforward rockers like "The Seventh Seal" and "Aftershock" into a majesty their basic melodies struggle to support, and the instrumental "Baluchitherium" is Lord Pyrotechnical unleashed. And yet, as was first shown by the '84 breakthrough, "Jump," there's more to this musician than fantastic finger work. With brother Alex's thunder-bucket snare as a secret weapon — he's easily the most distinctive hard-rock drummer since the late John Bonham — Van Halen engineer radiohot singles as easily as Eddie scorches the frets. "Can't Stop Lovin' You" is just such a sing-along — and it's terrific. And with bassist Michael Anthony in tow, Alex also shines on the almost funk of "Amsterdam."

Finally, Sammy Hagar tears up the hyperspeed shuffle "Big Fat Money" and fearlessly emotes on the power ballad "Not Enough." It may be time, after all these years, to cut that maligned belter some slack. He's a sort of Everyman as rock star, a true vox populi. Gleefully, he surfs Eddie's guitar waves, apparently getting as much kick as any fan does when they crash and tumble the studio walls — and that's a kick indeed.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “You Oughta Know”

    Alanis Morissette | 1995

    This blunt, bitter breakup song -- famous for its line "Would she go down on you in a theater?" -- was long rumored to be about Alanis Morissette getting dumped by Full House actor Dave Coulier. But while she never confirmed it was about him (Coulier himself says it is, however), she insisted the song wasn't all about scorn. "By no means is this record just a sexual, angry record," she told Rolling Stone. "The song wasn't written for the sake of revenge. It was written for the sake of release. I'm actually a pretty rational, calm person."

    More Song Stories entries »