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The Big H


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  • Hellanbach's debut album, 1983's Now Hear This, gave pause to many critics who'd been previously incapable or unwilling to see past the band's very obvious debts to the great Van Halen: a slew of pretty decent songs. Indeed, let the first band that hasn't borrowed from another source throw the first stone, lest you take the issue of stylistic recycling in rock & roll too seriously and fail to realize that Hellanbach was no more guilty than the next group in this regard. And given the band's unlikely location, how can you fail to appreciate Hellanbach's commendable efforts to bring fun-loving party anthems to the dreary climes of northern England, as evidenced by the energetic highlights "Look at Me," "All Systems Go," "Let's Get This Show on the Road," and "All the Way." Fueled one and all by Dave Patton's exuberant guitar histrionics, these L.A.-by-way-of-Tyneside rockers nevertheless pack plenty of punch despite suffering from Neat Studios' notoriously weak production values. In fact, the album's only serious blunder is thankfully saved for last, when Hellanbach takes an ill-advised stroll into camp cabaret territory with a cover of "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" from Disney's The Aristocats. Rather than measuring up to Van Halen's explosive rendition of "Ice Cream Man" (as was clearly intended), this unconvincing performance -- and particularly singer Jimmy Brash's halfhearted stab at mush-mouth cleverness -- simply serves to remind listeners that there's only one David Lee Roth, and more importantly, only one Van Halen. [Now Hear This was later included in its entirety on 2002's The Big H: The Hellanbach Anthology.] ~ Eduardo Rivadavia
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