Van Halen: ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’

Van Halen CD coverVAN HALEN
Released on June 18, 1991 (Warner Bros.)

Review by Metal Mike:
Hands up all you Van Halen fans who own a copy of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge? That’s what I thought. The FUCK album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 and spent three weeks there, replacing Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind in that slot. Between Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., FUCK sold over 3.2 million records, going three times platinum in the U.S. alone. It spawned three #1 hits, “Poundcake” “Runaround” and “Top of the World”, and won a Grammy Award in 1991 for Best Hard Rock Album, beating out AC/DC, Alice in Chains, and Guns N’ Roses that year.

Produced by the acclaimed dial twister Ted Templeman (Aerosmith, BulletBoys and a thousand others), FUCK was the third album under Sammy Hagar, and their ninth studio recording overall.  Following the success of the synth-laden 5150, and the more organic OU812, the band tried to morph its sound into classic hard rock, leaving the keyboards and blues guitars behind, while attempting to capture the early ’80s Van Halen sound again.

Did it? I’m not sure. I have mixed feelings about this disc, even after dusting it off and listening to it as an album for the first time in years. It sure isn’t my favourite Van Halen album — it isn’t even my favourite from the Sammy era.  Yes, there are elements I still enjoy, but more for the sentimental value of my late high school days. I recall my buddies and I almost being arrested for doing donuts in a condo parking lot with “Runaround” blasting from the car stereo.  20150624_004429 (2)Or the time we wore our “Fuck n’ Live” tour shirts to a Catholic school dance, taking bets on how long it would take to get kicked out (23 minutes won the bet!).  Or when opening act Alice in Chains was booed off the stage to the chant of “Eddie!” at the Skydome in Toronto in 1991…. aaah, good times.

The thing is, beyond a few select tracks, FUCK didn’t do it for me. It seemed over-produced, too forced, and generally uninteresting. Sure, it garnered all those accolades listed above, and even an U.S. Grammy, but don’t forget that in ’89, Jethro Tull beat Metallica’s And Justice For All…. for the same award, so it doesn’t mean that much!

In my opinion, songs like “Judgement Day”, “Spanked” and “Pleasure Dome” were ok, but mostly filler for the known winners.  Even “Poundcake” or “The Dream Is Over” sound like Van Halen were sitting around asking how they could sound more like Van Halen. Of course, “Right Now” is a classic, used in many commercials to promote everything from non-profits to Crystal Pepsi.  “Runaround” — I’ve already spoken of — and “In ‘N’ Out” had the same emotional attachment, but for other reasons.

In my final analysis, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge was an album that seems more methodically “constructed” rather than organically “created.”  It suited its time and was a huge hit… good for them. Funny thing though, for the Sammy era, it is one of my least listened-to recordings. Let the debate begin… what do you think?

Reviewed by Olivier:
Van Hagar‘s third album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge may have debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts back in 1991 but twenty five years later, it still remains one of the worst — if not the worst — Van Halen album ever released (along with arguably Van Halen III and A Different Kind Of Truth). There is no doubt that it is the worst Van Halen album released with lead singer Sammy Hagar. In fact, if it wasn’t for the absolutely stellar track “Right Now” which still gives me goose bumps to this day, the album should just be considered a dud. Alright, I admit that “Top Of The World” is a pretty good catchy tune as well.

Aside from the two aforementioned songs, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge really doesn’t have a lot to offer and is nowhere near the caliber of the two prior Hagar led Van Halen albums 5150 and OU812. Going with a more stripped hard rock sound with less nuances turned out to be a mistake for the Van Halen group. Perhaps that is why I never liked Van Halen‘s first live album Live: Right Here, Right Now as that album was way too heavy on the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge material with ten out of the eleven songs from that album incredibly making the cut. I am straying away though from the subject matter which is the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album, which yes, I willingly concede has a witty title since it stands for the acronym “fuck.” However, saying the full title For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge is quite the mouthful and therefore, a bit of a disappointment in terms of marketability.

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge remains the Van Halen album that I have listened to the least in the last twenty five years and with good reason. I will venture to say that if it wasn’t for the song “Right Now” and the name Van Halen behind the album, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge would be universally viewed as a terrible album. For some unknown reason, the Van Halen gang led by Eddie Van Halen was unable to come up with any really good melodic hooks and instead came up with lumbering, boring, weird sounding guitar driven songs (with the exception of “Right Now” of course). Starting a song (“Poundcake”) with an electric drill tells you all you need to know about the melodies that you are going to hear on an album.

Before you start thinking that I hate the whole For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album (aside from you know which song), the reality is simply that Van Halen had set a very high benchmark for themselves over the years and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge is their first album that really did not come close to reaching those standards. At the end of the day, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge brought us the best song — hands down — of the Sammy Hagar Van Halen era — “Right Now” — and based on that, it will always be an important album in Van Halen‘s discography.

Track List:
01. Poundcake
02. Judgement Day
03. Spanked
04. Runaround
05. Pleasure Dome
06. In ‘N’ Out
07. Man On A Mission
08. The Dream Is Over
09. Right Now
10. 316
11. Top Of The World

Band Members:
Sammy Hagar – lead and background vocals
Eddie Van Halen – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars; electric drill (1), piano (9), background vocals
Michael Anthony – bass, background vocals
Alex Van Halen – drums, percussion, background vocals

Additional Musicians:
Steve Lukather – backing vocals (11)

Produced by Andy Johns, Ted Templeman and Van Halen
Engineered by Lee Herschberg, Andy Johns and Michael Scott
Mixed by Andy Johns, Michael Scott and Ted Templeman

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Metal Mike and Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, June 2016

Van Halen‘s “Poundcake” video:

Van Halen – Poundcake

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (also known as F.U.C.K.) is the 9th studio album by American Hard Rock band Van Halen, released in 1991. It debuted at #1 on th…

Van Halen‘s “Right Now” video:

Van Halen-Right now

Please BUY this song, thanks.