Van Halen has one of the craziest rock and roll stories this side of Guns ‘N’ Roses. From the public divorces of every member without the last name Van Halen to the wild live shows, VH has been captivating audiences for a long time, even after “1984” was released.
I still remember the first time I heard VH. I was in the car with my dad and “Jamie’s Cryin’” came on the radio and I was blown away. Everything from David Lee Roth’s sing/speak style of singing to the shredding of Eddie Van Halen was amazing. To this day, VH still rocks my socks, and I was really pumped to hear new tracks from the band with DLR for the first time in almost 30 years.
After a couple run-throughs of “A Different Kind of Truth,” I finally have an opinion. This is just Van Halen. By no means is this a bad album. In fact, compared to new AC/DC, Aerosmith and “St. Anger”- Metallica, this is pretty good for a band well over 30 years old.
The biggest problem is there’s nothing memorable about this album. From that first listen of “Jamie’s Cryin’,” I still remember the churning guitar riff and story-like lyrics. With almost every other VH song, the music always seemed to somehow rise above most other sleaze-rock bands. This album is constructed half of new songs and half of songs written and scrapped in the ’70s and ’80s.
“Tattoo” is wisely chosen as the first single. This song is as close to vintage VH you will get from this album. In this song, you hear the one thing the band did extremely well, pretending like the last 25-plus years never happened and DLR and the rest of the gang having been secretly jamming this whole time.
“Tattoo,” “Chinatown” and “Blood and Fire” give the front half of the album its life. “Blood and Fire” is the most ambitious song on the whole album. It infuses a classic sounding VH-style chorus with DLR-solo-esque verses to create a best of both worlds (pun intended) song for listeners.
The rest of the album trudges along behind Eddie’s immense talent with the guitar and Alex’s ability to quietly melt faces on drums. Every song is pretty much a stereotypical VH b-side (which they really are) until “Stay Frosty.” This song not only has an awesome name but it’s a pretty nifty tune that subtly steals the album spotlight. EVH’s acoustic guitar intro and DLR’s not-so-subtle sleaze ooze from your speakers just like it’s 1980 and you’re trying to impress your prom date with your Camaro and mullet combo all over again.
If you’re a true blue VH fan, you owe it to the band and yourself to pick this up. If you’re not, listen to “Van Halen” instead. This is classic Eddie, Alex and Roth showing off their skills all over again. It’s no ’70s VH, but after listening to classic rock band after classic rock band hang on for too long, it’s refreshing to hear a band not named Rush reinvigorate their sound. I guess 27 years away will do that to you.