Van Halen, A Different Kind of Truth
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Rock Legends Unite
Written by Paul Lyons
Van Halen has an odd history. Bassist Michael Anthony, powerhouse drummer Alex Van Halen, charismatic vocalist David Lee Roth and virtuoso guitarist Eddie Van Halen ruled the airwaves and the charts in the early 1980s, then became even bigger with their second lead singer, Sammy Hagar. After a brief detour with Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone, they reunited with Hagar for a huge tour in 2004. Three years later, they kicked out Michael Anthony, hired Eddie Van Halen’s 16-year-old son Wolfgang to play bass, and re-hired David Lee Roth to sing lead vocals on a huge world tour. With this revamped lineup, Van Halen has released their first studio album in 14 years, A Different Kind of Truth.
Produced by the band and John Shanks, A Different Kind of Truth contains 13 tracks that sound very much like the songs you know and love from the Roth-era days of Van Halen II, Fair Warning, and Diver Down. Part of the reason for this is because seven of the album’s songs were culled from demos that date back to the 1970s. The other reason is because the band still sounds great.
“Tattoo” kicks things off with a bang, representing everything that’s great about Van Halen: heavy riffs, pounding drums, roaring vocals, silly, sexy, yet fun lyrics, a catchy chorus and a signature Eddie Van Halen solo. It sounds like something straight out of the band’s 1980 masterwork Women and Children First. This is followed by another strong track, “She’s The Woman,” which has a great dance groove, a pop chorus and lyrics that only David Lee Roth could get away with, like “She wanted something to regret tomorrow morning. This suburban garage-a-trois was worth exploring.”
The excellent “You and Your Blues” leans heavily on the past. David Lee Roth’s vocals have never sounded better as he belts out classic song titles like “Red House,” “Communication Breakdown,” “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Midnight Train to Georgia,” coupled with a great Eddie Van Halen wah-wah-infused solo. “China Town,” on the other hand, is fast and furious filler, in the vein of past Van Halen nuggets like “Sinners Swing” and “Hang ‘em High.” The lyrics are silly, and the music is forgettable, yet somehow the song still rocks.
“Blood and Fire” is among the best of the new songs. One can’t help but note its autobiographical tone with the chorus of “We came, we came, we came through blood and fire” and lyrics like “Told ya I was coming back.” It even features David Lee Roth’s signature catchphrase (which he uses at every public appearance and concert), “Look at all the people here tonight.”
You can hear the ghost of “Ice Cream Man” (from 1978 album Van Halen) in “Stay Frosty,” a fun and bouncy acoustic number with religious themes, that turns into a bland full-band blow-out. “Big River” is pure filler that sounds like an Aerosmith outtake with a big chorus, yet no real song to speak of. Thankfully, A Different Kind of Truth closes on a high note with “Beats Workin’,” a commanding track with a raw, AC/DC feel, and a catchy chorus of “This beats workin’, baby, ‘cause I’m red hot, baby, like it or not.”
Although by no means perfect, A Different Kind of Truth is a terrific album, with plenty to offer. Similar to Van Halen albums of years past, it functions as a great dance partner who pulls you out on the floor and shows you how to have fun. It’s good-time party music, suitable for birthdays, football games, keg-bashers and strip clubs alike. Undoubtedly, A Different Kind of Truth is what Van Halen does best.
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