Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Van Halen A different Kind of Truth Peer Review
What the hell am I listing to? I have to admit this was my first thought when I heard Van Halen’s lead off single from 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth. What exactly was this? The voice was there. It was David Lee Roth, the reason I loved Van Halen, besides Eddie’s shredding, but what was wrong with it? It didn’t sound right. It was just...off. It was missing something and in my frustration of waiting for this album, I began to prepare being disappointed by yet another formerly great band that had tanked on their previous releases. This has happened several times with the newest releases by Stone Temple Pilots, Lenny Kravitz and the Red Hot Chili Peppers...am I rambling? Yes, so sorry, let’s pull it back and concentrate on the album at hand.
For over a year, I had heard reports online that Van Halen were in the studio with Diamond Dave at the helm once again. The reports used phrases such as “younger and hungrier than ever” “A REAL Van Halen album” and “It’s 1979 all over again”. These are bold claims and if they could make any of them come true, this would be the best album since 1984. I was never a fan of the Van Hagar years and I honestly stopped listening to them. I did not like the overused hi-hats on every song and the ready for radio trendy chorus that Sammy Hagar was prepared to shovel out for every album, though he could invoke nostalgia like no other (hot summer nights anyone?)
Finally, the album date was here, and as I headed to the record store, I felt like I was heading to a funeral. I thought that maybe Tattoo, the lead single might just be a fluke. I reasoned with the cd case the entire way home. “I could have bought any cd in the store and I chose you so please don’t let me down”. Yeah, I actually had a conversation with a cd on the way home, don’t judge me. But what you should judge is the music. Once Tattoo was over, I heard the intro she’s the woman, a hard rocker starting out with Eddie’s shredding and a bubbling bassline by the youngest Van Halen, Wolfgang. Being in his father and uncle’s band is his birthright and he is a natural born rock star. Catchy hook but not overdone. It’s memorable but doesn’t follow radio trends, instead letting the radio approach them.
Ok, 1 bad and one really pretty good. The next song was a number called You and Your Blues. It starts out with an uptempo strumming with DLR’s lyrics making references to classic blues tracks such as ‘redhouse’ ‘stormy monday’ ‘midnight train to georgia’ ‘crossroads’ and ‘19th nervous breakdown”. This was Van Halen! The remarks that critics made in the music press started to make sense. So far though there was still 10 tracks to go. Up next was Chinatown, a speedy track that while it lacked the ferocity of Hot For Teacher, it matches the tempo easily.
I wont spoil the album with a track by track other than to point out the two tracks that cemented this album into a classic Van Halen album for me. “As If” starts with big 1980’s air injected drums and a slow, sludgy riff that squeals into note pinches at the end of every bar. The track sounds heavy and almost evil, well, maybe not evil, but definitely angry. The song then dissolves into arpeggios that only Eddie can truly do and then settles into the heavy mid tempo riff again. This is young Van Halen with something to prove with Alex and Eddie and Dave at the top of their game. There is absolutely no way that Sammy Hagar could have produced music this good with the late 80’s, 1990’s Van Halen
The most standout track, however is a traditional acoustic blues called Stay Frosty with Dave delivering a spoken word in a swing styls. After this song goes for two short verses, the band kicks in with electric blues and drums and bass.
After I listened to the entire album, I returned to the opening track Tattoo and while it’s still not one of my favorite songs, I appreciate it in the sequence of the album.
This is a stellar album, that just couldn’t make my top 5 list. That’s not on account of the weakness of the album. Instead it says volumes about the bands who put out original and worthwhile material this year. I hope for another Van Halen album this good, but for now, we have a new Van Halen this good. Get it, play it, love it, obsess over it. ENJOY IT!!!