This Van Halen video clip is finding itself in a lot of places, and creating lots of typing. Unfortunately, most of this comment and message-board chatter is kind of dumb. Especially the sanctimonious blah-blah from the many pony-tailed inhabitants of various guitar/gear sites. To hear them tell it, this is some kind of moment of failure for the Van Halens and isn’t it a shame?
Listen up, shreddy: It is not a shame, it is transcendent.
While I like VH’s Fair Warning a lot, it’s true that I have always hated 1984’s “Jump”. Thanks to the song’s intense and enduring popularity it has stubbornly refused to fade from my memory as so many REO Speedwagon and Styx songs obligingly have. When I first saw this clip, my jaw dropped as all of yours did, but mine dropped because finally, this song was coming out of the speakers the same way I had always heard it.
Let me explain: this song’s ridiculous, obvious major-key swells, as used for the the ground under guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s histrionics are intended to be stirring and uplifting. Indeed, this is how most appreciative listeners experience these moments. I’m just not that lucky.
This is the clip’s genius: when the anthems’ most triumphant peaks arrive with an alarming leviathan groan instead of the intended sound of angels gently urinating arcs into the sky, it throws, finally, the overt phoniness of this wretched song into sharp contrast. The dissonance highlights exactly where you were supposed to be most elated, most manipulated by greeting-card level sentimentality — but instead leaves you appropriately laughing. Bless you, Van Halen.
The dissonance itself, well, that’s no crime at all. On-stage dissonance is in fact pretty goddamn cool, as the following clips clearly prove.
(Fred Willard introduces the lead guitar stylings of Mark Mothersbaugh)
(A tender ballad from a skinny bunch)
(The late, great Brainiac)