It's called Van Halen II not just because it's the band's second album but because it's virtually a carbon copy of their 1978 debut, right down to how the band showcases their prowess via covers and how Eddie Van Halen gets a brief, shining moment to showcase his guitar genius. This time, he does his thing on acoustic guitars on the remarkable "Spanish Fly," but that temporary shift from electrics to acoustics is the only true notable difference in attack here; in every other way, Van Halen II feels like its predecessor, even if there are subtle differences. First, there's only one cover this time around -- Betty Everett's "You're No Good," surely learned from Linda Ronstadt -- and this feels both heavier and lighter than the debut. Heavier in that this sounds big and powerful, driven by mastodon riffs that aim straight of the gut. Lighter in that there's a nimbleness to the attack, in that there are pop hooks to the best songs, in that the group sounds emboldened by their success so they're swaggering with a confidence that's alluring. If the classic ratio is slightly lighter than on the debut, there are no bad songs and the best moments here -- two bona fide party anthems in "Dance the Night Away" and "Beautiful Girls," songs that embody everything the band was about -- are lighter, funnier than anything on the debut, showcases for both Diamond Dave's knowing shuck and jive and Eddie's phenomenal gift, so natural it seems to just flow out of him. At this point, it's hard not to marvel at these two frontmen, and hard not to be sucked into the vortex of some of the grandest hard rock ever made.
Van Halen II Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine