A Different Kind Of Truth
By James Baase
After so many years of alcohol, infighting and egos, how does a tired old rock band come back and pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat? Forget the rabbit. Make good music not magic!
What Van Halen has done with their first studio album in 14 years, is pull out a hand of aces from the back pocket of a faded old pair of jeans. Those aces became the foundation on which they built a metal house of cards named A Different Kind Of Truth.
Upon first listening, you’ll find that this CD sounds exactly like old Van Halen—real Van Halen! The truth is…it is.
Not only is David Lee Roth back as front man, but half of the tracks are old material and demos written by Eddie in the early years of the band’s formation, with new lyrics penned by Roth in a style all his own. Alex is still beating away at those drums and with the addition of Eddie’s son Wolfgang—a true Van Halen—on bass, the formula that worked so well over 30 years ago is complete. So why not do it again, maybe one more time?
This is what they gave us:
The opening track and first single “Tattoo” immediately clues you in that they’re back in a big way. With its driving beat and catchy chorus it’s obvious why this song is already a hit. Roth’s vocal fade-in at the beginning reminds me of the sound that started the first track of their first album…remember?
Roth’s voice, albeit much older, carries “You and Your Blues”, “The Trouble with Never” and the anthemic “Blood and Fire” in style—with a little help from father and son harmonies backing him up. These new songs serve to temper the heat of the other much faster, in your face, kick-ass speed rock demonstrated by “China Town”, “Bullethead” and “As Is”. A mere mortal would have bloody fingers after pulling off the guitar work in these songs. To Ed it’s just a walk in the park.
The song “Honeybabysweetiedoll” leaves you wondering how a guitar can make those sounds. Listen for the bark of the dog too. If you loved “Ice Cream Man”, you’ll appreciate an almost updated version in “Stay Frosty”. That’s just Dave being Dave.
The four of the best songs on the album (the aces) “She’s The Woman”, “Outta’ Space”, “Big River” and “Beats Workin” originated from the Gene Simmons-produced album of demos, Zero, from 1976 before Van Halen was signed by Warner Brothers. I have to say that Eddie plays incredibly on every single track of this album. He gives us everything we’ve loved and more. His dexterity and signature style continue to amaze me, but the solo in “Beats Workin” is one of the smoothest I’ve ever heard.
So, was it cheating…releasing an album of old material mixed with new after so many years off? If the new material turned out to be garbage, that would be the case. In such an uncertain time when our rock idols are either dead, getting a facelift on a reality show, or judging a talent contest, I had little hope. But I listened and listened again, and this album keeps getting better. I love every bit of it. It’s not cheating when the fans are the winners.
What Van Halen has done is brought the past back to us in a way that is timeless. It doesn’t sound outdated. Whether it’s Dave’s growling lyrical quirkiness interlaced with messages like “Told ya’ I was coming back…” or Alex keeping perfect time chasing his brother all over the place, it’s a familiarity that we’ve all missed. Wolfie does a great job pounding that bass as if he was born for this event. And Eddie…what can I say about this genius that hasn’t already been said? I’ll let the music do the talking, and what it will tell you is that the greatest rock guitarist ever, is still alive!
These guys pulled it off. They created a straight forward hard rock album that will stand up against any of their early releases. Van Halen has restored my faith that anything is possible in rock and roll. Now go buy the whole album and crank it up. You’ll be glad you did!
02 She’s The Woman
03 You And Your Blues
04 China Town
05 Blood And Fire
07 As Is
09 The Trouble With Never
10 Outta Space
11 Stay Frosty
12 Big River
13 Beats Workin’
Album Produced by Van Halen and John Shanks
Running Time: 49:58
You can check out everything Van Halen at their website at www.van-halen.com