Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A New Van Halen Is Better Than No Van Halen: A Casual Review Of A Different Kind Of Truth

Van Halen were never metal but the hard rocks at my high school liked them.

Going home to my Tomita, Split Enz, and Devo records, I'd think back to the Van Halen tunes I'd heard on the radio, and on the bus when the hard rocks had been cranking some VH tape all the way home.

There was something playful and distinct about Van Halen that made them unlike any other band gaining traction with that leather jacketed crowd in 1982 or so.

By the time the "(Oh) Pretty Woman" single dropped in 1982, I was a casual fan.

When 1984 dropped near New Year's Day 1984, who wasn't a fan?

Even my mom had a poster of David Lee Roth! I got it for her as a goof after she loved some TV interview with Diamond Dave in 1984 or so. To her credit, she put it up on the back of her closet door.

C'mon, he was a stud with a sense of humor. Every guy I knew would have gladly traded 10 years off his life to be Diamond Dave for just 1 day in 1984!

So there's no way that that magic mix of David Lee Roth's charisma and Eddie Van Halen's musicianship can still deliver? Right?

Well, as I'm wrapping my head around the new Van Halen -- no Michael Anthony, but it's Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, and Eddie's son Wolfgang on bass -- album called A Different Kind Of Truth it's hard to hear that old magic.

Still, the record is a pleasure. These guys -- at least Diamond Dave and Eddie -- are having a blast. The record, oddly, sounds like a David Lee Roth solo record that Eddie just happens to play all over.

And I say "play all over" for a reason as his guitar runs are furious. There's a Fripp-like fever to his work on "China Town", and "The Trouble With Never" sounds like one of those Vai/Zappa cuts my friends used to love so much.

The tunes here are not obvious ones but, as a nearly 45-year-old man listening to this, I'm happy just to hear these old bastards cranking up the volume and producing guitar rock -- joyous guitar rock! -- again.

"Stay Frosty" sounds like a turbo-charged outtake from the Diver Down (1982) sessions, no mean feat considering that that record is now 30 years old!

Maybe to really appreciate this record I need to be rocking it out on a car stereo as I tool down an American highway?

(With a big blonde next to me, like in one of Dave's solo videos? In my dreams, maybe...)

A Different Kind Of Truth is tailor-made for Nigel Tufnel's stereo; it needs to go to 11, frankly.

David Lee Roth's voice is good here even if he seems to be putting more obvious effort into sounding carefree these days.

Eddie's guitar playing is just awesome on this record; guitar freaks should buy this just for that reason.

Then go play Side 1 of Fair Warning (1981).