As with The Who's By Numbers, one might speculate the title Fair Warning was the band's honest admission to fans that the record was completed with lackluster effort, phoned in. Nothing is further from the truth. Although the 1981 LP -- VH's fourth (of six) with the Van Halen Mach 1 line-up (David Lee Roth, Eddie and Alex Van Halen, and Michael Anthony) -- could be considered the band's weakest of their phenomenal '78-'84 run, that's only because Van Halen, Van Halen II, and Women and Children First were such powerful and accomplished records. "Weak" is relative in the rare hard-rock air Van Halen floated on at this point in their career. Not a half-assed attempt at all, Fair Warning finds the band focused and tight, laying down exceptional rhythms, sharp riffs and pyrotechnic guitar solos ("Mean Street," "So This Is Love?"), hard and in-your-face bastardized blues ("One Foot Out The Door"), classic Van Halen choruses ("Hear About It Later"), and the band's most enduring FM-radio hit with a memorable "Diamond Dave" Lee Roth sexualized, comedic interlude ("Unchained"). Maybe two million copies sold (Platinum), a #5 Billboard 200 apex, and four songs in the Top 40 was by numbers for Van Halen at this point, as easy as connecting the dots; but you don't get results like that without shrewd hooks and stellar craftsmanship. Yet the question remains: why Fair Warning? Simply put, Van Halen were cautioning listeners that the gloves were off: the songs contained hard, up-tempo rhythms, slashing and wild guitar solos, and -- most noteworthy -- angry, edgy, explicitly greasy-sexy, smutty-humorous, misogynistic lyrics sung with serious emotion. No strangers to innuendo-laden, party-time casual-sex-with-a-smile songs on previous albums ("Feel Your Love Tonight," Bottom's Up!," "Beautiful Girls," "Everybody Wants Some!!"), on Fair Warning Van Halen took their testosterone-driven songs to a new level, perhaps a new low. And it works. In spades. Just like the seedy, pornographic underbelly of VH's hometown Los Angeles, Fair Warning bared the band's collective id to the fans. "This is home/The only one I know" David Lee Roth sings defiantly on "Mean Street," Fair Warning's opening cut. Van Halen's L.A. is where glamorous beauty and refined sexuality are a thin veneer over the carnal truth. "Dirty Movies" may begin with a dreamy intro by Eddie Van Halen, but it quickly devolves into a heavy-bottomed, chugging tale where "Daddy's Little Sweetie after some damn Rainbow/Got the Big Deal in the back of a Limo" and winds up the object of whistling sleazeballs shouting "Take it all Off!" Dirty Diamond Dave Lee Roth and Co. get even more lascivious on "Sinner's Swing," Roth sneering "She looks so f$$ing good, so sexy and so frail,/something got the bite on me, I'm going straight to hell" as the rest of the band almost pleasantly calls out "Gi-Gi-Gi-Gi-Give me that Bush!" It's enough to make the "Bitch" and "Starf$$ker" era Rolling Stones blush, or green with envy. But, quoting Mick Jagger, "the one thing you can't fix is a track that doesn't f$$king move." Van Halen prove keenly aware of this on Fair Warning, rocking hard --perhaps harder than any Van Halen record before or since-- slashing and burning through nine solid tracks with enough muscle to shoulder the often equally fierce lyrics. A record any Hard Rock fan should have in his/her collection.
Fair Warning doesn't possess the same beer drenched fun as do the first 3 albums by the band. Still a great album though (EVH is amazing throughout). Sinner's Swing, Hear About It Later, So This is Love, Sunday Afternoon in the Park, Mean Street and Unchained were the FW numbers they ripped through at Detroit's Cobo Hall Area on a hot 4th of July weekend 1981. Great times for sure!