David Lee Roth is back with Van Halen … again, and rockers the world over are rejoicing. VH’s 12th studio album, and their first solid album in far too long, “A Different Kind of Truth” will have Van Halen fans well satiated with an old-school rock vibe that hearkens back to when the band was at its zenith before internal issues sent Roth packing.
Not that “Truth” is necessarily all “new” material; as Roth recently told the Los Angeles Times, the band reworked some of their unused material from their pre-1978 debut for the album – which was a genius move to bring the band back to their roots. Eddie Van Halen’s sweet guitar work sounds like it did back when this was one of the most rocking’ bands on the planet, before he became fascinated with synthesizers and a more pop sound. He eschews the keyboard completely on “A Different Kind of Truth” in favor of going back to what he does best with the power and steel of his electric guitar. His virtuoso playing on this album truly illustrates his legendary status in the annals of rock.
As for Diamond Dave, most press reviews of “Truth” dis a little on him for what critics say is his lack of vocal powers like he had back in the good ol’ days. Let us not forget that the man is 58 years old, and he still sounds dynamite on “Truth” no matter what the naysayers tout.
Alex Van Halen remains on drums, thankfully. The only downer to the current Van Halen lineup is that former bassist Michael Anthony is still M.I.A. However, all is not lost. Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen rocks the bass and deserves full props for his skill at cinching the band’s signature harmonizing vocals. Still, it would be nice to have Anthony back to make the band whole again, but that does not seem likely anytime soon.
Nevertheless, “A Different Kind of Truth” is straightforward rock ‘n’ roll the way only Van Halen can do it. There are strong tracks and weaker tracks on the album, but as a whole it is a must for any Van Halen fan’s collection.
Sadly, leadoff track “Tattoo” is the worst of the bunch, yet the one chosen as the first single release. Let’s hope this tune gets out of the way soon to make room for better offerings from the album. The lyrics on this song are terrible and way too heavy-handed, with the word “tattoo” repeated over and over. At their best, Van Halen is renowned for making not-too-veiled sexual innuendo into a most entertaining trademark of their music – take “Hot for Teacher” for example. However “Tattoo” fails epically in its homage to aged tarts. “Swap-meet Sally/ tramp-stamp tat/ housewife to momshell in the time it took to get that new tattoo.”
There are other limp tunes on “Truth” as well – such as “Honeybabysweetiedoll,” which only begs the question, “Why?” It is kind of a mess.
Thankfully, there are more interesting tracks on “Truth” than not, and some that will make longtime fans feel like they are in a time warp back to the high times of smoky concert arenas and general admission seating – “Outta Space” being a case in point. “Stay Frosty” is a wonderful bow to “Ice Cream Man,” a blues beauty. Other standout songs include “Blood and Fire” and “Big River,” on which Eddie shreds.
Van Halen plays Tacoma Dome on May 5.