A Different Kind of Truth
The last three or four years in Van Valen’s history have been relatively sedate compared to all the rehab, the acrimony, splits, reunions and fights that preceded this later chapter in their career. However tumultuous and public these events have been, Van Halen have not so much bounced back as they have carried on without a care, much like their touring strategy, which seemed focused on their home country. After all the rumours, the will they, won’t theys, have they and haven’t they’s, Van Halen are back with their first album in 14 years, with ultimately defining vocalist David Lee Roth leading the line – the first album he’s recorded with the band since rejoining VH back in 2007.
The first thing to talk about this record is the opening track and lead single, ‘Tattoo’. Quite simply one of the best VH tracks recorded in years, with a simple and funky bass groove from Wolfgang Van Halen, making his recording debut with the band, underpinning a sassy verse which leads into a fantastically catchy refrain of ‘tattoo, tattoo’ that you’ll be singing over and over again for weeks. I’m quite appreciative of that song, and upon first listens, admittedly I was finding trouble in appreciating large parts of the album. But it really opens up on further listens and the album’s quality begins to shine. ‘China Town’ is one example, where drummer Alex injects a little more energy into proceedings. The highlights come and go but there are some outstanding tracks, such as the monstrous-sounding ‘As Is’, one of Van Halen’s heaviest tracks to date, replete with another dazzling Eddie solo and some great bass fretwork from Wolfgang to keep up; ‘Stay Frosty’ is the bastard child of ‘Ice Cream Man’ from their eponymous debut and shows Roth’s lyrical waxing hasn’t diminished one bit, and closer ‘Beats Workin’ is a fine way to end the album with cracking riffs all the way through.
DLR’s voice certainly isn’t what it used to be, now seemingly unable to reach the highest registers, but he still puts in a typically passionate and glitzy performance. Anyone who doubted Wolfgang’s ability or indeed right to fill Michael Anthony’s boots will hopefully be silenced by a more than able performance, though it has to be to keep up with his father’s chops. Still, ‘A Different Kind of Truth‘ probably isn’t going to suit everyone, and no doubt long-time fans of Van Halen will find something they don’t like about the album in greater quantities than I did. The band’s biggest glory days are undoubtedly behind them, but this album has already tasted huge success, and after all the shit rumoured and discussed about them over the last few years, its great that they’ve come back with a pretty good album that still keeps Van Halen relevant in 2012. Still, a UK tour wouldn’t go amiss.