First off, Van Halen's first album in 14 years, A Different Kind Of Truth is - in the words of my friend Lisa - "better than it should be."
And I agree. The guys could have slacked off on this and coasted on their legend - however possibly tarnished in the eyes of fans - but Truth is no cash-in lightweight, or excuse to sell merch and concert tickets. But it sure makes a compelling reason to see them live in 2012.
These thirteen new songs, the group's first work with prodigal son David Lee Roth since 1984's 1984, make a raunchy, unfrozen caveman-monster of an album. This sounds like it could have been the logical follow-up to 1984, had Roth left, or been fired, or whatever the story was in each book or documentary you happen to read or see. Another close relative to Truth seems to be 1980's Women And Children First.
The band, now minus bassist Michael Anthony, have made the mother all comeback albums, sounding just as vital as ever, armed with riffs that have been stored inside a time capsule from the Reagan era. Is Anthony missed? Yes, but the new kid Wolfgang Van Halen has matured into his role opposite his father Eddie Van Halen, and is now an old hand. His backing vocal slot, where Anthony shined for years, is on the money. As for his bass playing, that is what is driving this band into now.
You may be wondering now how Eddie sounds. In a word: revitalized. It's great to hear sound like he's having the time of his life. You can hear that in his guitar work. No telling how many more stoopid riffs are just lying on a shelf in his 5150 Studios.
Let us not dwell on what happened during the Sammy Hagar years, because that has nothing to do with the core group of drummer Alex Van Halen, Eddie, and Roth. That's another band that can stand on it's own in a separate universe.
Here's a song by song breakdown of Truth. Get ready for that June 24 gig at Toyota Center folks.
This lead single left a band taste in a lot of mouths, and understandably so. The jokey Roth lines about tattooed honeys with tramp stamps didn't bode well for the band's comeback release. It almost sounding like a Roth solo castoff, but it was saved by EVH's guitar work. I thought it was catchy, but what do I know? You know in the '80s, the groupies didn't have tattoos -- at least nothing visible -- and now in order for a chick to get backstage to meet/rub Buckcherry at a club show you need sleeves and something on your neck to even meet a drum tech.
She's The Woman
VH aficionados will know this one from the band's 1976 Zero Sessions, pre-Van Halen, bankrolled by KISS' Gene Simmons. It returns here in fine form, with the lyrics spiffed up. This is the VH that you, your uncle, or even your father got laid to in the late '70s. The character in this song also signals a turn in Roth's lyrical bent. The scumbag that Roth embodies on Truth has been kicked in the balls by life these past 25-30 years or so, and he's living in a car. No, really. I can already see Roth jumping off the drum riser for this one.
You And Your Blues
A great showcase for EVH, and for WVH's backing vocals. This is one of the most "modern" cuts on the album overall. It's a great kiss-off anthem, in the vein of Van Halen II's "You're No Good".
Jesus, what have you been up to on your nights off, Diamond Dave? The lead line "Headless body in a topless bar," reminds us of VH's seedy stories on "Mean Street" from 1981's Fair Warning.
Blood And Fire
Is this about the band's early days, or is it describing the turmoil that finally lead to this version of the band? Ultimately it sounds like Roth detailing returning to his place in the band. Not too sure either way, but Alex Van Halen owns this one. There's those old-school fills aplenty.
Oh my, a really loud one. EVH comes unhinged on "Bullet Head", with Roth slithery ala "Unchained". Road rage, Roth-style
Another AVH workout, with just a titanic amount of sludge from EVH at the top, sounding like he's got the angel of his departed friend Dimebag Darrell at his side screaming out chords. It almost reminds me of Valient Thorr, which is total compliment to Thorr. Check out their "No Holds Barred" from 2008's Immortalizer. And yes, they could open for VH.
Techie noodling from EVH at the top leading into another pummeling akin to the previous cut. This would have been the point in the set in 1983 when Roth would be ordering girls from the crowd like picking items off a Chinese food menu. There is also an eastern Led Zeppelin thing brewing in it, akin to "Immigrant Song".
That's The Trouble With Never
When cuts from the album began to leak onto YouTube, this was our early favorite, with kooky Roth lines like "When you turn on your stereo, does it return the favor?" peppering AVH's drum clinic. It also shows that Roth seems to be currently obsessed with 1-800 numbers and sexting, and his spoken interlude is suitably creepy. This one should be on the upcoming tour's setlist.
Roth mentions Facebook on this one, proving that he's been lurking on social media for possibly years now, harvesting your drunken updates for lyrical ideas.
A pseudo-spiritual Roth solo acoustic, a throwback to "Ice Cream Man" from Van Halen. The band busts into the room at around the minute mark, so you aren't bored for long if you hate Roth's vaudeville act.
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Total "Runnin' With The Devil" kick, seasoned with Roth musing about getting muddy in nature. It's not as corny as it sounds because the band absorbed it all. Shit is just fun.
The band finishes strong, somehow managed to sneak shades "Eruption" into a whole new five-minute animal. WVH gets the spotlight for few bars, as the VH family gels while Roth catches his breath side stage.