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Rock Music Review: Van Halen - A Different Kind of Truth
When the long-awaited album from Van Halen titled "A Different Kind of Truth" was released, there was a lot of praise and criticism from critics and fans alike. While their own personal tastes were usually reflected in their reviews, there were a few items that seemed to be unanimous:
1. Eddie Van Halen can still shred the guitar like nobody's business.
2. Alex Van Halen can still pound a drum set like nobody's business.
3. As a group, Van Halen can still kick some ass when they need to.
A Reunion of Sorts
The album "A Different Kind of Truth" is the first album with original lead singer David Lee Roth since 1984. It is no secret that a LOT of water had went under the bridge in the 27 years since then. Van Halen has had 2 other lead singers (Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone), and has had several attempts at reunions with both Hagar and Roth. In 2009, the band again reunited with Roth and embarked on a highly successful tour. To the delight of many, it appears the chemistry held together long enough to allow them to put out an album of new material, and tour in support of it.
In what was touted as a "reunion" of the original group, this was only true in the return of Roth and to the classic Van Halen sound of the 1970's. Missing from this "reunion" is the original bassist, Michael Anthony, who was unceremoniously jettisoned from the band after the 2004 reunion tour with Sammy Hagar. Taking Anthony's place is Eddie Van Halen's son, Wolfgang. While Wolfgang is sufficient on the bass, he lacks the harmony and background vocals that made Anthony an integral part of the band's legacy.
To give the fans a taste of what was coming, the lead single called "Tattoo" was sent to radio prior to the album release date. While it rocketed to the tops of the rock music charts (along with the video on YouTube), it caused many Van Halen fans some concern because quite frankly, at first it seemed terrible. After listening to the album a few times though, it is safe to say one takes a liking to the song and it becomes of of the favorites of the entire record. Some argued that Van Halen took "a chance" by releasing this song first, instead of one of the other better songs on the album, but what they forgot was that we are talking about Van Halen here. They don't play by the rules, and they know their fans will come calling.
Going Into The Archives
When promoting the album, the band made it no secret that they went back into the archives and did a little digging. Due to this, much of the album has that classic Van Halen feel and sound. Many songs have hints of songs previously released on other Van Halen records. The end result is probably one of the heavier albums the band has put out since "Fair Warning" back in 1981.
As mentioned before, the first track: "Tattoo," was the first released single. While the intention of fun is there, lyrically the song is kind of silly. While the band shreds in the background, Roth is left singing about a "tramp stamp tat." Lyrically it doesn't do much for anyone, but the rest of the band kind of save the song.
The second track on the album, "She's the Woman" is from a demo recording that helped secure them the record deal that brought them to the masses. The band "modernized" it and rewrote all the lyrics (minus the chorus - its pretty close to the unreleased original). It is also easily one of the best tracks on the album. After listening to it, you find yourself singing the title phrase over and over. It is catchy.
"You and Your Blues" is a flat-out David Lee Roth tune, and he brings the heat. It is probably his strongest performance on the record, and would be a smart choice for a released single.
The song "China Town" is not a strong lyrical item, but is strong due to the connection Alex and Eddie Van Halen have on this one. Eddie's guitar is something like a video game gone crazy, and Alex's drums are just as insane as they lay down that epic Van Halen rock.
"Blood and Fire" is also one of the better songs, and Eddie certainly does his part with his fancy fingerwork. Unfortunately the song feels like "filler" after listening to the album a couple times. Odds are good you will never hear the song again unless you play the album yourself.
The next four songs are "Bullethead," "As Is," "Honeybabysweetiedoll", and "The Trouble With Never." Of these 4 songs, "Honeybabysweetiedoll" and "The Trouble with Never are the other 2 songs that could have been left off the album completely. "Honeybabysweetiedoll" is signature Roth scatting and rapping, but it falls short with silly lyrics and no direction. "Bullethead" serves as another rocker on the album, and "As Is" displays Eddie's finger tapping and "Brown Sound" that he is famous for.
The last four songs, "Outta Space," "Stay Frosty," "Big River," and "Beats Workin'" return to the vault and bring out familiar sounding licks, and "traditional" Van Halen sound. "Stay Frosty" could serve as the sequel to "Ice Cream Man" on the 1st Van Halen album. Dave has his bluesy vibe going, and it works. "Big River" is a nice showcase for Eddie as well, as he crams more licks into a 10 second bit than most guitarist can even dream of pulling off in a song.
"A Different Kind of Truth" certainly lives up to the hype, and it shows the world that they just aren't out there coasting on their discography. While the early tunes no doubt are held near and dear to the hearts of Van Halen fans everywhere, this one deserves to sit on the same shelf as the other albums of yester-year (Except for that Gary Cherone one, just awful).
It is just nice to know that these rock heroes of our youth can still bring out the big guns and show everyone that they can still rock the house when they want to. Nice job guys.