Saturday, 9 March 2013

Van Halen "A Different Kind of Truth"

I’ve concentrated mostly on newer rock acts up to this point. This time I’m going to make some room for a classic rock act, one we all should know; Van Halen. A bit over a year ago they released A Different Kind of Truth; their first album of all newly recorded material since 1998’s Van Halen III, and their first with frontman David Lee Roth since 1984’s 1984. The result is a fine piece of work that has shown the band age very well through their long recording hiatus.

The albums first track, and first single off of the album, is Tattoo. This is a song that was either well received or heavily criticized upon its release, depends on what source you go by. Frankly it wasn’t the track anyone would have expected the mighty Van Halen to release from such a highly anticipated album. The DLR era of the band was always remembered for its fast and fun party songs with undeniably influential guitar licks by the great Edward Van Halen. Tattoo is far from that kind of song. It’s a rather mid-tempo song with very apparent keyboard sounds in the background, and lacks the boom that most people would have expected. It made many sceptical that the album would be less than we expected it would be. Luckily this wasn’t the case, seeing as how this track is probably the second worst song off of the album. Albeit, the song does grow on you when you listen to it, I don’t care what anyone else says.

The next track, and second single off of the album is She’s The Woman. Long time fans of the band would recognize this song as one of their earliest demos from back in the 1970’s. In actuality a few of the songs on the album are either older tracks that the band never officially recorded, or are written from old ideas that never amounted to anything, this includes Tattoo. The 1976 version of She’s The Woman featured 95% of the same music, however the lyrics were changed to fit Dave’s more matured lyric writing abilities.  The result is a fun anthem of a song that fans of the band would have been expecting the band to release.

Interesting fact for those who care: listen to the track Mean Street from 1981. The guitar break in that song before the guitar solo was originally intended for She’s the Woman, so when you’re listening to Mean Street, you’re actually listening to a piece of this song in a sense. The guitar break was changed for this song.

Tracks like You and Your Blues display a great deal of maturity in the bands song writing. This is the kind of track that the young Van Halen never could have thought of. Like Tattoo, It is not a fast party song, but it is a great hard rock song that should still satisfy its listener. Blood and Fire is another track off of the album that doesn’t sound like your typical Van Halen song. This song starts off with a slow and sweet guitar riff that Eddie had written back in the mid-1980’s that finally got its shot to be recorded in a song.

The album has its very fair share of Van Halen party songs in lieu of the hits that we remember them for, starting with the fast and heavy China Town. This song starts off with a patented Edward Van Halen two-hand tapping guitar riff, assisted by his son, Wolfgang Van Halen, making his recording debut on this album, playing the same intro on his bass guitar. The intro leads in to a heavy and almost dark sounding rhythm, with Dave singing the song with a very serious tone. Bullethead is another track taken from the bands early demo repertoire. This track is another fast and heavy track fit to please the biggest of Van Halen fans.

As Is is perhaps the fastest of the songs off of the album. It shouldn’t be forgotten that drummer Alex Van Halen has spent his career as a major pioneer of the double bass drum attack, and he shows in this track that his age has most definitely not limited his ability to bash the hell out of those bass drums and anything else that is bashable with his drum sticks. The track even starts off with a David Lee Roth scream, something he doesn’t do so much anymore in is older age. Outta Space would be the bands last fast paced song on the album. This song is a rerecording and improvement of another previously unreleased song from the 70’s, Let’s Get Rockin’.

Honeybabysweetiedoll is a heck of a track. This is a song featuring a LOT of studio effects with Edward’s guitar. This is one of the heavier songs off of the album and a true gem. The Trouble With Never is the only major weak point from the album. A very uninspired song that concentrates more on the song’s lyrics (which have their good and bad moments) rather than concentrating on the delivery of the lyrics, making it a rather boring song to listen to.

The structure of the song Stay Frosty should be familiar to long time fans of the band. It starts off with an acoustic guitar being played by David Lee Roth and him singing with the song, only for it to lead in to a heavier boogie/blues rock. This is pretty much the same structure as Ice Cream Man (a classic off of their 1978 debut) but rest assured this is not a re-working of the song like Bullethead or She’s the Woman, this is a completely original song written for the album. The song is one of the better tracks off of the album, but the only complaint to be said of the song is during its intro, Dave seems to be playing his guitar too fast and has trouble delivering the lyrics, making the intro sound very rushed.

The album ends with 2 bashing good fun songs. Neither are necessarily fast, but both are the kind of songs that could get an audience to sing along. Both are also re-recordings of past demos. Big River is a re-recording of a demo called Big Trouble, and is a greattrack with a consistent chugging rhythm in the background that will get your head moving. Beats Workin’ is a re-recording of a demo called Put Out the Lights. This song features what is definitely the best guitar riff off of the album. For long time fans, think of the song Feel Your Love Tonight from the debut album and how catchy that riff was, and then apply the feeling you get when listening to that riff and apply it to this song.

Once you get passed the fact that David Lee Roth can’t quite sing the way he used to, this album is every bit the kind of album the band could have followed 1984 with 29 years ago. Dave is still every single bit the showman he has always been, and his voice is still great, despite its age. Edward has improved vastly throughout his career, as heard on the later Van Halen albums released in the late 80’s and 90’s, and he shows that it only got better since then, concentrating more on his rhythm than on his “shredding”. Despite the album not having Michael Anthony, original bass player, Wolfgang Van Halen does a great enough job filling in the gap. There would be no Van Halen today if Edward didn’t get the opportunity to play for his son, so it is a price to pay to hear new music from the classic hard rock godfathers.



Blood and Fire” – It’s impossible to single out just on song off of this album as the highlight. I tried, listened to every song over and they are all too different from one another to decipher, so instead, I am picking Blood and Fire, admittedly only because it is my favourite song off of the album, but when I think about it, it really does mix the serious aspects of the album with the fun aspects. It is not a fast song, nor is it a slow one. It is a more inspirational sounding song with a fun and free feeling that a Van Halen song should have, but it’s delivered on a slightly more serious note. The lyrics of this song could be interpreted as the band acknowledging that they’ve come this far, and their disbelief of that matter, with lyrics such as “We came through blood and fire, now look at all of the people here tonight.”



8 (Out of 10)


Track List:

"She's the Woman"  
"You and Your Blues"  
"China Town"  
"Blood and Fire"  
"As Is"  
"The Trouble with Never"  
"Outta Space"  
"Stay Frosty"  
"Big River"  
"Beats Workin'"  

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