Album Review: Van Halen

a different kind of truth (interscope)

Theory proven? In 1984 it appears all members of Van Halen were put into cryogenic stasis, and slightly shoddy clones were wheeled out to continue the careers of the band and DLR. Presumably as they felt their creative peak was on the wane and they desired to make a comeback at some distant future time all fresh and shiny.

Come 2012 and someone, perhaps unintentionally, seems to have hit the defrost button and brought the original line-up (or as near as dammit) back to life. This must be the only reasonable explanation, as this new LP has almost exactly the sound of Van Halen in their heyday. Check the SoundCloud player for minute-and-a-half previews of the album.

28 years may passed since 1984 and David Lee Roth (allegedly) left for a solo career and found himself replaced by Sammy Hagar as frontman, but you'd hardly notice it.

In all honesty it's quite astounding just how much A Different Kind of Truth retains all that was great about those early albums. Not that Van Halen without DLR was terrible by any means - It just wasn't quite the same - Whereas this is! Did Mr. Hagar, and later frontman Gary Cherone, know? Did something go wrong with Michael Anthony's reanimation thus calling for the introduction of Wolfgang Van Halen on bass? Was 5150 a cryptic reference to the originally intended defrost date? Do highly inaccurate 'facts' make for a good yarn? Who knows ...

Whatever the story, here we are in 2012 seeing Van Halen release an album of newly recorded material and plans for a epic tour in the following months. The first single from the album, Tattoo, was released a month ago. An odd choice as leader as it's not the greatest, catchiest or most memorable track from the album by a long chalk.

Looking somewhat deeper into the validity of the 'stasis-hypothesis' it would seem to be the case that in fact there is an alternative explanation. Described by the band as "A sort of collaboration with their past", a number of tracks that appear on A Different Kind of Truth are based upon demos and unused lyrics written by the band in the 1970s. David Lee Roth explained further in a recent Spin interview;

"It's material that Eddie and I generated, literally, in 1975, 1976 and 1977,"

"Usually fellas in our weight division will kind of gamely — or ironically, wink, wink — try to hail back to it [but] keep a safe, mature distance from it. [We] can't be the same people — too much has changed — but there's interesting experimentation in the era-spanning synthesis of self."

Make of that what you will. Musically, 'experimentation' isn't something emanating in great waves from the new material. Perhaps instead referring to the experimentation of successfully pulling off a comeback of sorts, with 'new' tracks that without a doubt owe so much to the classic era of widdly finger-tapping and spandex that made Van Halen one of the true giants of Rock. A Different Kind of Truth comes across as a pretty much timeless example of Van Halen doing what they did (and now do) best. It's something that could have easily gone horribly wrong, but hasn't - which is refreshing in its own way.

Will veteran VH fans love it? - Yes, that's very much more than likely. Will a new generation of fans become enthused and start discovering the band's back catalogue and legacy, firing up a supercool trend of 'Nu-Rawk'? .... Hmmm, probably not, but don't throw away those motheaten tigerprint lycra leggings just yet. As you never know ...