A Different Kind Of Truth

Van Halen

Interscope, 2012


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Ever since the departure of David Lee Roth as lead throat for Van Halen, longtime fans have clamored for his return to the band. They claim they suffered through Sammy Hagar’s stint with the band (never mind the fact that no Roth-era Van Halen album ever topped the Billboard album chart; all four studio efforts with Hagar did), and we all suffered through the shoulda-been-an-Eddie-solo-album that marked Gary Cherone’s stint with the band.

But in 2007, dreams came true as Roth again was announced as the lead singer for Van Halen. Five years later, the first Roth-era Van Halen album in nearly 30 years, A Different Kind Of Truth, saw the light of day.

Did you ever hear the old saying, “be careful what you wish for”? This album is the epitome of that phrase; it’s a decent half-album, but in the end disappoints.

Let’s get to the elephant in the room first… namely, the absence of Michael Anthony. Wolfgang Van Halen is a competent bass guitarist, but he doesn’t have the vocal prowess that Anthony did in terms of backup singing. Whatever reason Eddie Van Halen had for not reuniting the “classic four” lineup, I don’t know… anyhow, he’s not returning my calls. While the casual fan would probably never hear the difference, Anthony’s absence is noted, and he is missed.

“Tattoo” was a lame choice for lead-off single. Whatever the powers that be were trying to prove with this song, I don’t know, but it failed. The track doesn’t have the hooks like “Jump” did; anything trying to resemble such a hook sounds and feels forced. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Two tracks jump out as being far superior to “Tattoo,” and would have been great choices. The first is “Blood And Fire,” which is quite possibly the best song on the disc, and does show there was still magic in this band. Perhaps it wasn’t as strong of a rocker as some might have seen “Tattoo” as, which is why it didn’t make that cut. If that were the case, “Bullethead” would have been a more than suitable replacement, featuring some of the throwaway lines that make Roth noteworthy as a lyricist. (Sample line: “Some days you’re the dog, some days you’re the hydrant.” That’s frickin’ gold right there.) Its weakness, though, is that it clocks in at two-and-a-half minutes, which is not long enough these days for a single.

I understand that many of the songs on A Different Kind Of Truth are tracks re-worked from Van Halen’s early days; if that’s what they needed to get their creative engine revving again, then so be it. (They may want to make sure the cycle still has gas; as of this writing, it’s now been seven years since this album came out, with no hint of a follow-up coming any time soon.) “She’s The Woman” is a passable track, at best, but doesn’t live up to the kind of material that Van Halen was putting out toward the end of Roth’s first stint with the band, such as “House Of Pain” or even “Top Jimmy”.

“As Is” is a track that, quite honestly, has to grow on you, but when it does, it turns out to be quite enjoyable. Likewise, “China Town” has some solid moments that make you really start to think that Van Halen could be headed back to their halcyon days.

Unfortunately, the rest of the disc brings those hopes crashing down. It’s not that tracks such as “Stay Frosty,” “The Trouble With Never” or “Honeybabysweetiedoll” are atrocious; it’s that they come off as half-baked tracks that needed a few more coats of paint to become solid efforts. At times, this disc almost makes Diver Down sound like a carefully planned-out album.

The other thing that bothers me is that it sometimes seems like Eddie Van Halen is purposely holding back on his guitar mastery in order to push the song forward. It sure sounds like he hasn’t lost any dexterity after over three decades of being a guitar god; I just wish there were more moments on this disc that really celebrated his skill, instead of this merely being a welcome back party for “Diamond Dave”.

I’ll admit, while I hated this disc when I first listened to it back when it came out, certain portions have come to grow on me. If only I could say that about the entire album. A Different Kind Of Truth has its moments, but is not the ultimate return to glory that either Van Halen or their fans would have hoped for to mark Roth’s re-entry into the band.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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