Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Van Halen “A Different Kind of Truth”

“There will come a day when youth will pass away...”

How many of you actually thought you’d see the day come when the Van Halen brothers (I guess we can say Van Halen family now that Eddie’s son Wolfgang replaced Michael Anthony on bass) would release a new record with former front man David Lee Roth? Diamond Dave always thought it was inevitable, but I am still taking in the moment that has finally arrived. You could feel the energy of anticipation in the air for months now…most of which was instantly deflated with the debut of their new video, “Tattoo”. I was apparently in the minority in liking this song from the get go.

No lie - “A Different Kind of Truth” is very good. The band has taken heat for revisiting some ideas that dated all the way back to the 70s, but what better way to get their feet back in the water with Roth? Longtime fans will be able to spot these elements in the tunes without hesitation. So how are the boys holding up after all these years? Eddie and Alex sound like they are on fire – the record is ambitious, ferocious, and bursting with energy – you can tell they’ve been holed up in studios for far too long and the band is playing like they have something to prove. Dave still brings that certain charm to the fore and while his voice is going a bit and he talks too much during the songs, his lyrical wit remains as sharp as a tack. Wolfgang proves he is a capable bass player, but there are many spots on this record where I can hear the ghost of Michael Anthony chiming in with his trademark backing vocals. Still, the band makes attempts to compensate by crafting excellent harmony vocals on tracks like “The Trouble With Never”.

The first three tunes are an excellent announcement that the boys are back and taking no prisoners. Eddie brings back the guitar solo with a vengeance and Alex is jaw-droppingly good on his drums. “She’s the Woman” sounds like Roth-era Van Halen v2.0. The ultra-catchy “You and Your Blues” is the kind of song that made Van Halen a radio staple back in the day. “China Town” starts off with blistering thunder that recalls “Get Up”, but Roth soon chimes in to make it his own. My favorite tune in the batch is the dynamic yet wonderfully melodic “Blood and Fire” – a record full of songs like this would be a new classic. But then tunes like “Bullethead” and “Honeybabysweetiedoll” seriously take away the melodic momentum – on the plus side, they highlight the greatness of the explosive “As Is” and “The Trouble With Never”. “Stay Frosty” provides a pretty cool acoustic-based break on this otherwise heavy record, but in isolation it isn’t all that memorable. The record ends strong with a double punch of powerful cuts in “Big River” and “Beats Workin’”.

The new record strives to show that the boys are older and wiser, but youth has not yet passed away. It succeeds far more than it falls flat, and I feel younger just listening to it.

Van Halen – Official site.

Check out the video for “Tattoo”, if you are one of the 5 people who haven’t done so yet:

1 comment:

Mark Boudreau said...

I like the album but for some reason I wish they had done this back in 96 when they originally reunited with Roth. Or 2001 when they re-reunited with Roth. Or 2008 when they re-re-reunited with Roth.

As good as it is the whole circus that has become Van Halen seems kinda sad.