Review: Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth

Posted: March 7, 2012 in Reviews

“I don’t think there’s a lonesome bone in the Van Halen body,” singer David Lee Roth said at a recent  acoustic session, perfectly explaining his band, Van Halen, and their newest release, A Different Kind of Truth.

Van Halen, best known for tunes such as “Hot For Teacher,” “Jump,” and “Eruption,” were one of the most popular hard rock and metal bands throughout the late 1970s and ‘80s.  The band, currently composed of singer David Lee Roth, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Wolfgang Van Halen, is famously known to have undergone several lineup changes.  After the release of the smash 1984, “Diamond Dave” Roth departed from the contingent, and the other three members (then E. Van Halen, A. Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony) regrouped with a new singer, Sammy Hagar, who then brought the band to a new level of sell-out mainstream rock-pop, though they came out with some good material.

A Different Kind of Truth, which is the first to feature Roth on vocals since 1983’s 1984, is almost a gift to fans of classic Van Halen.  The record rocks hard all the way through, just like any other Roth-era album, but unlike 1984, A Different Kind of Truth finds itself planting its feet deep within the blues-rock subgenre.  Reaching back to the mid and late 70s, it leaves behind synths and other qualities more popular during the 80’s.  These songs are pure muscle topped off with a magnificent “Rothian” hook.

The band received negative feedback for A Different Kind of Truth’s first single, “Tattoo.”  Though the track is widely known to have been based upon an old Van Halen concert staple, “Tattoo” is without doubt the weakest song on the whole album.  Why the band would choose to release it as both a single and the album’s opening track will never be understood.  It’s hard to imagine someone who actually cares enough about Roth’s body to want to hear a song that only discusses his tattoos.  Not to mention that the chorus is neither catchy nor intricately written.

The second and song, “She’s the Woman,” should have taken “Tattoo’s” position as the opening track.  It sounds just like a classic Van Halen song with an extremely raunchy and bada*s riff, complimented by Alex and Wolfgang Van Halen’s skillful rhythm.  Roth displays that he still is “Diamond Dave,” the one and only, adding his classic screams and howls.  Any band other than Van Halen could not have composed this hook and chorus—”She’s the Woman” is such a Van Halen-y song and could easily fit on Van Halen or Van Halen II. 

Only several other songs, namely “Stay Frosty,” “Outta’ Space” and perhaps “Blood and Fire” compare to “She’s the Woman,” which, like “Tattoo” is based upon an older Van Halen demo. The entire album packs a tremendous punch, though some of the tracks seem just plain noisy rather melodically hard rocking.  “China Town” is a prime example of such a musical mess.  It starts with a cool keyboard pattern reminiscent of tracks off 1984 or 5150, the band’s first album with Sammy Hagar after Roth’s departure.  A noisy guitar riff quickly replaces that synth sound, creating an abrupt change in the instrumentation.  Like “China Town,” A Different Kind of Truth’s subpar tracks seem as though they might have been written as filler material.

Nonetheless, while A Different Kind of Truth is not a perfect album, it is home to a stash of good songs and maintains a fun, energetic, aggressively rock-and-roll-ish mood from start to finish.  It’s great to hear Roth and the Gang again and Any it’s obvious from their music that they’re happy to be performing again.  Welcome back, boys.

Comments
  1. Ariel says:

    Do you think that the new album is now less popular because the first song on it, Tattoo, was not a great “lead in” to the album??

    • eak1994 says:

      I think that initially, people were less pumped for the album because of “Tattoo,” but since it is Van Halen, there was a large contingent of those who bought it simply because of the name and I think that people checked it out after it came out and liked the rest of the album. “Tattoo” probably slowed the album’s success because people wanted to hear the rest of it before buying so they waited ’til it came out.

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