Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth

Van HalenA Different Kind of Truth (Interscope)

“Told you I was coming back,” deadpans David Lee Roth on “Blood And Fire,” one of the thirteen new tracks from A Different Kind of Truth, the band’s first album in 28 years. Thank God, Van Halen fans deserve this moment for all they have been through. And more importantly, they deserve a decent moment, not something slopped together as icing for the cash cow that will be their 2012 tour.

And decent it is. In fact, it is better than anyone expected, even those of little faith who spoke disparagingly of the leadoff single “Tattoo.”

In fact, “Tattoo” is the worst song on the album, and if you can make it through “Stay Frosty” without smiling — the improbably awesome reprise to “Ice Cream Man” — then there is no saving you from your own jaded pretense. The reality is that something special happens when the atomic explosion of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work and Diamond David Lee Roth’s front man jive collide. It is a thing of beauty and A Different Kind Of Truth only confirms that.

For me, it is clear that all the closet cleaning that people were so freaked out about served as a benchmark for this reunion. The selections they chose were a reminder of those club days before they became successful. They represent a time when they were hungry, before the drama set in and they could all agree on working together for one common goal.

A Different Kind Of Truth finds every member doing their fucking job. Each one of ‘em — including Wolfie — seems intent on making sure they weren’t to blame if this whole idea ended up in the shitter. Every member delivers, and the venue they chose to display their hard work is an aggressive one. There are few moments that I remember hearing a keyboard, and there is no room in their arrangements that allow for an “I’ll Wait” power ballad. It’s unadulterated hard rock music, and every one seems nimble, chomping at the bit to knock the chip off our collective shoulders.

If you want comparisons, A Different Kind Of Truth tries hard to reach the punchy deep tracks of Women and Children First while delivering more consistent winners than II or Diver Down. It’s about three songs too many from ranking alongside their classics, but one of the only things preventing them from reaching that plateau is that our heads are no longer blown away like they were when Eddie was fingertapping his way through our earholes the very first time around.

Yeah, you miss the high harmonies of Michael Anthony and, yeah, Diamond Dave’s lost a high note or two, but if you approach this album expecting an embarrassing money grab you will immediately discover that Van Halen is actually trying to add something to their catalog.

Roth sounds a bit more humbled, older and wiser at times. He uses that low gruff voice a bit too much, something that he started with “Me Wise Magic” during the brief mid-90s reunion, and Eddie carries his ass when it gets a tad bit creepy on “Honeybabysweetiedoll.”  But in the end, there’s an exuberance in his performance that hasn’t been heard in years.

Same with Eddie, who seems hell-bent throughout A Different Kind Of Truth on getting back on top of those guitar magazine polls by pulling out mind-blowing solos in every nook and cranny available.

Even Alex, particularly on the intro to “As Is,” channels the best Ginger Baker his old balls can muster and even gives nephew more cowbell while he unleashes some nice fuzz bass guitar on the terrific closer “Beats Workin’”

As a matter of fact, the last three tracks on A Different Kind Of Truth are just as good as anything in the band’s original cannon, and it’s totally obvious that some of these songs actually are part of the original black powder.

They’ve done something very impressive with it, namely adding to the band’s winning streak instead of further tarnishing the band’s legacy. Equally important, it validates the fact that this band has chemistry with this particular vocalist and that we now have a chance to look forward to watching Van Halen fulfill their unrealized potential.

5 thoughts on “Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth”

  1. How can I believe you? Am I going to have to actually purchase this CD?

    One question: How does the recording sound? i.e. is it all compressed and loud, or does it have some dynamic range? I suppose I could just go look on the Hoffman Forums, but I can’t bear reading through 100 pages of posts on the subject.

  2. Great album, great review! You make a lot of good points that seem to have escaped most other reviewers. For example, “… but one of the only things preventing them from reaching that plateau is that our heads are no longer blown away like they were when Eddie was fingertapping his way through our earholes the very first time around.” Exactly. Everybody is 28 years older, not just the band. Couple that with the ridiculous expectation level of most people and there you go. The original albums and the period they were created in were so iconic (not to mention the fact that we’ve had 30 years to marinate in those albums) and so much has happened in the last 28 years (to the band members as well as to ourselves) that this album has had to wade upstream in waist-deep water right from the get go. Yet, in spite of that, as you mentioned, the band managed to produce something that will only enhance their legacy, which is quite an accomplishment.

    And you’re right- everybody steps up their game on this album. Everybody. It’s crystal clear to me that the guys were focused and intent on returning to form. Every song is stuffed with top-of-his-game playing by Ed. Dave’s vocals and lyrics are sharp. Wolfgang’s bass lines are strong and the kid clearly has the chops to hang with his dad and uncle. Al brings it on every tune and tunes like “As Is” and “China Town” show that he can still beat the hell out of the heavy bag with the best of them.

    So, just a great return to form and to steal a line from you, those that can’t see this can’t be saved from their jaded pretense.

  3. I’m not sure how to answer this, since the first question seems to suggest some dishonesty in the review. All I can count as this being a credible review-and this also answers the second question-is that I’ve been a Van Halen fan since the debut, struggled with the years that followed DLR’s departure, and came into the new record with the same amount of hesitation that anyone else had. And since Interscope did not provide me with a promotional copy, I came about my download in the same manner that most Americans do: illegally. With that being said, I did take the next step in purchasing Truth-not out of loyalty, but out of the fact that I was genuinely impressed with the results. I think the review reflects this. If it still doesn’t change your mind, then purchase the first Montrose album instead.
    Sonically, I think it’s good, but keep in mind the review was from that questionably acquired file and the cd was immediately added as an mp3 file too. Additionally, I don’t think any of the equipment that I listen to music on would meet your expectations, as you once referred to a docking station I was looking at within my price range as a “piece of shit.” I’d be less reliable to you on matters of production qualities than on the actual music itself. The old fart Lefsetz claims that Truth sounds awesome on a high-end system and doesn’t seem to have any compression issues. For what it’s worth, I didn’t notice any Death Magnetic –type of fatigue and have enjoyed the new V.H. full-tilt on the 5.1 minivan entertainment system while the children asked me to turn it down so that they could watch Puss In Boots in peace.

    But hey, I’m taking the argument over to my blog in the next couple of days with a list of the best D.L.R.-era Van Halen albums in order. Spoiler alert: A Different Kind Of Truth ends up at #5.

  4. So I figured out an even easier way to listen to A Different Kind Of Truth than illegally downloading it – Spotify.

    And it’s pretty good.

    I’ve only taken a single run through, but I have to say I’m impressed. Tattoo is, indeed, the worst song on the album, and I’d have to agree with most everything else you wrote too, Todd.

    Frankly, I’m in shock. Happy shock, but shock indeed.

    As to the sound quality issue, the album has a dynamic range of 5, which is, frankly, terrible. But not so terrible that I’m going to drop $35 on the vinyl version that comes out in 2 weeks. Or maybe I will. Going to pick up a used copy of the CD first.

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