Tuesday, February 28, 2012

CD Review - Van Halen - A Different Kind of Truth

I meant to post a review of Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth earlier, but I have been busy at work and as importantly, I have been really soaking up this album, trying to figure out how I really felt about it. It took a few listens to get used to what isn’t there – Michael Anthony vocals, David Lee Roth’s upper end, a little reverb on the vocals, which works so well with Roth’s voice, the ultra-crisp Alex Van Halen snare tone, and super duper catchy songs like Dance The Night Away.

But after I set that baggage aside, I began to see this album for what it really is – a kick ass Van Halen album. Eddie’s guitar is front, center, loud and pummeling. Much how I felt about David Gilmour’s playing on The Division Bell, I think Eddie’s been woodshedding, because well, he is wood SHREDDING on this album. No bones about it, EVH is back, baby, and he is taking names.

Alex Van Halen never lost his touch even on the crappiest of the VH releases, but he is incredibly solid on A Different Kind of Truth. For example, skip up to track four (China Town) and eight (Honeybabysweetiedoll) to get that Hot For Teacher insane Alex Van Halen energy. One talented mo-fo.

The songs are well-written. Not very much dross, which is very refreshing for these boys. I felt on many of their past albums they were shooting for two or three singles (best example is Fair Warning) and the rest is filler. Not here – every song is solid.

And it’s almost like they took songs like Outa Love Again from VH2 as their model. There are no ballads. Only two semi-commercial songs and only one of those has a keyboard part on it that is barely audible. There are two songs where the band slowed down the tape (if they used tape) to get some crazy deep guitar tones. Best example = the album’s final track, Beats Workin’. Eddie also uses an E-Bow (pretty sure) in a couple of places.

I realize that Tattoo was supposed to be the catchy commercial single, but I found myself singing track five (Blood and Fire – no, not a cover of the Indigo Girls) when I woke up in the morning. What a great song. This one also has one of those weird syncopated drums parts that make you wonder where the hell the ‘one’ is.

Stay Frosty is a new classic, in the same vein as Ice Cream Man. The tune starts off with a bluesy acoustic and gruff Roth vox, but soon branches into high octane rock and roll.

I understand a number of these tunes were re-worked from the Roth-era cutting room floor. But I have to say – who the hell cares? Pete Townshend right now is probably figuring out how to re-use the Baba O’Reilly loop for a hockey game. These ‘old’ songs sound fresher than anything from Balance or VH3 (an album I really liked, by the way).

The best ‘old’ songs include track two, She’s The Woman, which was on the original Gene Simmons-produced demo before VH1 (oops, now I owe Gene 25 cents). I first saw this in one of the fan videos for the secret New York club gig last month and immediately thought it was a smoker. The two final songs on the album (Big River and Beats Workin’) deserve to be earlier in the lineup. In fact, I would have led this album with Big River, but after putting some flipping reverb on Roth’s vocals!

And I have to quote from fellow blogger pod who in his review listed some things thankfully NOT on this album.

1) David Lee Roth rapping
2) A-list, hip-hop artists talking over tracks
3) Ugly sounding, auto-tuned vocals
4) Crappy, synthetic noises standing in for the musicians
5) Pretentious, angst ridden lyrics
6) Four guys phoning it in

Amen to that, brother.

The deluxe iTunes version of the album has video of some acoustic performances and they are worth getting just to see Eddie rip it up with no effects or amp.

So overall, a very kick-ass, raw, rocking addition to the Van Halen discography and more than enough new stuff to weave into the live set on the upcoming tour. And best of all, Eddie is back.


Chris said...

Okay, I'm getting it. You aren't the first reliable source to recommend it, so I'll pull the trigger. I suspect you are the first ever to mention the Indigo Girls in a Van Halen review, though. Heh.

Sean said...

Thanks for linking my review, sir. Pound for pound, this is quite an amazing showing for VH, especially when most had long written them off as a recording entity. Best of all, the tour is going to have one hell of a set list and no one is going to disappear when the new stuff is offered up live. Great review.

drewzepmeister said...

I have had the album for a couple of weeks now. Relentless is the best word I'd describe it as. The best damn album I've heard in awhile.

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The musikvideo song Tattoo is the weakest of them I was really surprised how good the other songs were. A really good comeback

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