Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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David Lee Roth

  • Crazy From the Heat [Warner Bros. EP, 1985] B
  • Eat 'Em and Smile [Warner Bros., 1986] B+
  • Skyscraper [Warner Bros., 1988] C+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Crazy From the Heat [Warner Bros. EP, 1985]
Since I'm a person of broader culture than the average Van Halen fan, it didn't smash my preconceptions to hear him cover the Beach Boys and the Spoonful and Dan Hartman and "Just a Gigolo"--just irritated me, reconfirming my instinctive belief that he chose metal over Vegas because Vegas wouldn't have him. Way back when, that is--it's clearly where he'll end up if his movie career should fall through. And as it turns out, his movie career has softened me up--the panoply of grotesquely stereotyped caricatures who populate his videos grosses me out a little, but its capacity to shock is tonic in this bland musical moment. This is an adequate soundtrack. B

Eat 'Em and Smile [Warner Bros., 1986]
With everybody from Patti to Belinda to Peter to Eldra kissing pop's ass, Roth gives it a pinch and keeps on trucking. Maybe because he lived out his wimpier fantasies on last year's EP, here he's free to mastermind his own piece of multiplatinum potential. Sure he covers "That's Life," but he also assembles a metal band that'll cut old buddies: Maynard Ferguson drummer, cult heaven bassist, and on guitar former Zappa and Lydon sideman Steve Vai, who splits the difference between parody and virtuosity. I mean, Vai is funny without opening his mouth. And of course, so is our voluble auteur, who makes Miss Liberty a burlesque queen and neither lady a whore. B+

Skyscraper [Warner Bros., 1988]
In which the Van Halen parody of his debut LP gives way to the Vegas parody yeah-sure of his predebut EP. Instead of speed-metal, speed-Sinatra: while Steve Vai and Brent Tuggle make noises that once employed whole phalanxes of AFM members (brass and strings, respectively), Dave shares with us the wit and weary wisdom gained in his career at stud. C+