Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth
(2012, Interscope Records)
1. “Tattoo” … 4:44
2. “She’s the Woman” … 2:56
3. “You and Your Blues” … 3:43
4. “China Town” … 3:14
5. “Blood and Fire” .. 4:26
6. “Bullethead” … 2:30
7. “As Is” … 4:47
8. “Honeybabysweetiedoll” … 3:46
9. “The Trouble with Never” … 3:59
10. “Outta Space” … 2:53
11. “Stay Frosty” … 4:07
12. “Big River” … 3:50
13. “Beats Workin'” … 5:02
David Lee Roth – Lead Vocals
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar, Keyboard, Backing Vocals
Wolfgang Van Halen – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums
Producer: John Shanks & Van Halen
Well. Here we are. One of the most anticipated releases of the year by one of the biggest rock bands ever. A Different Kind of Truth is the first new Van Halen album in 14 years and it’s the first VH album with David Lee Roth in 28 years! To say that the band was under pressure to deliver is an understatement.
In order to help deal with such pressure and high expectations, the band dug back into their vault and grabbed old demos and song ideas and hammered them out into complete songs in order to keep in line with that classic DLR-era Van Halen sound (with lyrics completely rewritten by Roth). Ironically, this has drawn criticism from many VH fans who feel cheated over the fact that the album isn’t 100% new (you’ve got DLR back… isn’t that enough?). Well, it’s no surprise that when you’re as big as Van Halen and you’ve been around for so long, you’re always going to be compared to the early and “best” years and no matter what your intentions, there’s always going to be a loud group of “fans” that will tell you how much you now suck. Personally, I think it is a bit disappointing that this legendary band couldn’t be inspired and confident enough to come up with completely new material and that they needed to look at 30 year old demos. Ultimately, as long as the finished product is good, that’s what matters most. It’s not like they are the first band to use previously abandoned material.
As for the deal with Michael Anthony… Look, it’s a shame this isn’t a full reunion. Yes, it’d be nice for him to be on the album and in the band still but are we really going to gripe & moan over backing vocals? I’m not trying to downplay his contributions but it’s not like he was the songwriter or the public face of the group. It’s lame Eddie was enough of an insecure jerk to kick him out because of Michael’s friendship with Sammy Hagar (who has already said he doesn’t like this new album, no surprise there) but it’s not like his presence is that missed, IMO. His backing vocals are great but VH’s music stands on its own with or without him.
So, to the first single: “Tattoo”. When I first heard it, I thought, okay this is somewhat typical of VH’s poppier moments but is most reminiscent of something Roth might’ve done early in his solo career. It’s a fun song that I’ve ended up liking a lot, even though at first I thought it was really just above average. It’s definitely not like anything else on the album and now I can kinda see why it was chosen as the first single because it’s not as hard, heavy or fast as the rest of the album. Definitely the song that has the best chance get onto Top Forty station.
I can definitely say that if anyone is letting “Tattoo” influence their decision on checking out the album, don’t. This is a HEAVY album. Whether Eddie is using old solos or came up with some new stuff, he’s absolutely on fire throughout this album. For years people have been saying that Eddie had lost it thanks to his years of addiction but the guy can still go and proves himself to again be in an exclusive class of guitarists. Even if the material isn’t 100% new, just the fact that he can still play it so skillfully means something.
There’s been some criticism of Diamond Dave’s voice (which is nothing new) and while it obviously isn’t the 1980s anymore, he still sounds like Dave. I don’t have any problem with the vocals at all.
And if you want to know how this new VH line-up gels, just check out “Honeybabysweetiedoll”, which may be the heaviest song these guys have ever written and has a slight modern edge that the rest of the album doesn’t have. I would love to hear more songs written in that vein.
I think Van Halen have delivered a great disc to spin during the summertime… which is how every Van Halen album should be written — with summer in mind. This is a good album to play while you’re driving down the highway with the windows rolled down, out on the beach or washing your car. No disrespect to the Hagar years (which I liked), but Van Halen is at their best when they aren’t trying to change the world or make you think. Van Halen is best at writing party rock and that’s what the album is. “Tattoo” is pop/rock, “Blood and Fire” reminds me of Van Halen II, “Bullethead” & “Honeybabysweetiedoll” are heavy, “Stay Frosty” is the successor to “Ice Cream Man”, the opening of “As Is” is reminiscent of “Everybody Wants Some” before EVH lets loose, “Big River” has that classic hard rock Van Halen sound… Forget when it was all written and just enjoy the music! This is the Van Halen that everyone has been waiting for and I’m liking it more and more with each listen.
Highlights: “Tattoo”, “You and Your Blues”, “China Town”, “Blood and Fire”, “As Is”, “Honeybabysweetiedoll”, “Big River”