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HARDWARES

VAN HALEN

A Different Kind Of Truth

Interscope/Universal

Reviewed by : "Metal" Tim Henderson
Rating : 9.5

I tell ya, gimme the good ol' days when you heard the single and went to buy the complete album a few days/weeks later. VAN HALEN has been teasing us to no end with all these snippets, taking away the surprise. You'd think an artist would want us to relish in their art from start to finish without interruption. But alas it's the digital era and without question what we hold here is a thrilling surprise. I can still remember to this day when 1984 was released. All the hoopla around the rebellious kid with the smoke, the racy 'Hot For Teacher' video and of course the first single that led off with keyboards! Man, the VH-lads had balls bigger than the state of California. But it worked. And then the Diamond Dave magic was gone. Yup, a tragic loss - kinda like your father vacating for a hooker. Sure, Sammy picked up the ball, but didn't score as many touchdowns as Roth and Co. Then there was smoke in the distance and we all thought the fires were re-lit when The Best Of Van Halen, Vol. I was released with two brand-spankin' new Roth tunes ('Can't Get This Stuff No More' and 'Me Wise Magic'). But someone pissed on the fire. 16 years later here we are again, David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen far from coming to blows, but brothers in arms. First off, A Different Kind Of Truth almost feels like you've been transported back into the flair of the '80s, actually earlier as Roth revealed to the Los Angeles times that some of the material on the album dates back to ideas from the late '70s! Only Van Halen could get away with such an asinine plot. And immediately you begin to reminisce about all those unstoppable tunes from a band that had the world in the palm of their hands, all culminating in a frenzy on stage. Could all this be happening again?
There was a little hesitation with 'Tattoo', a bizarre choice for first single, but it's sultry, sassy attitude grows like a sunburn in that Pasadena heat. The chorus busts open and man, that outro sizzles and you wish Eddie would take us down that never-ending blues path. And you want to hear more. And not just little pieces of the pie. Gimme the whole thing god-dammit! Well, the pie is now in front of us. Grab two forks and let's rock! 'She's The Woman' could've easily been nestled into the grooves of Fair Warning (it actually dates back to a demo tape the group made in 1976), drummer Alex and nephew/bassist Wolfgang Van Halen's pumping backbeat pushes the tune along a hardened path until Eddie adds his magic with a varied solo most axemen would never dream touching. 'You And Your Blues' kicks off with a catchy riff and a pulsating yet poppy Roth vocal line, complete with those patented background volleys from the lads. You get the feeling that age hasn't affected the team. Eddie's jaw-dropping noodling leads off 'China Town' until Alex presses the gas and you feel the need to strap yourself into your seat for fear of body parts being left behind. A tune full of piss n' vinegar, a street fight set into motion. Kinda like 'Hang 'Em High' meets 'Mean Street'. And if you haven't already, you now have the urge to crank this fucker even louder. And you know the boys planned the sequence this way. 'Blood And Fire' emerges a little more palatable in terms of melody, but shockingly has an edge. Yes, this album is that heavy-handed. And you gotta crack a smile at Roth when he quips, 'I told ya I was common' back.' Damn right, Diamond Dave is back and the chorus rings true as the band truly has survived blood and fire. Eddie's hands are bleeding with 'Bullethead', a shorter ditty that includes the album title A Different Kind Of Truth as a send-off.
'As Is' sees Alex in a John Bonham tribute until a 'Hot For Teacher'-feel kicks-in as the band laps it up. The humour ain't lost and Eddie's leads leave you awe-struck as Van Halen steamrolls ahead. 'Honeybabysweetiedoll' is reminiscent of latter-era Roth, the poet oozing with more bedroom antics and an oddly positioned dog barking as the tune closes. Condom and collar not included! 'The Trouble With Never' is another feel-good sing-along which pulsates along, this Van Halen house-party going to the wee hours of the morning as Roth asks 'when you turn on the stereo does it return the favour?' Mid-way through, the blond-maned ring-leader poetically seduces the listener while Eddie wails in the background, Roth whispering in his deep tones: 'You wanna play … the game? You can't quit when you play. Mistakes make people, isn't that what people say? Let's starting playing the moment and dance the night away.' Ohhh, the shivers! 'Outta Space' continues the head-bobbing affair, more old school meets new school. No matter, every rock band on the planet will get schooled with the antics of this creation. The modus-operandi gets clearer. Of course the 'Ice Cream Man' comparisons resonate through 'Stay Frosty', but this is the Roth we all fell in love with in 1978 and the band we treasure. A little difficult to soak in when it's frosty in the north and the tune screams top-down, 'got a drink in my hand, I got my toes in the sand' vibe! 'Big River' fits the mold like a glove, yet with less Roth and more instrumentation, you soak in the interplay between the three Van Halens at work and easily imagine the jam room as a raucous family affair. Last song is 'Beats Workin'', over five minutes of punishing theatrics and rather prophetic given the band's stature in the hard rock arena. And while the power play is between Dave and Eddie, all four pieces of this puzzle react and interact.
Van Halen have made the rules, but don't necessarily live by them! And that's why A Different Kind Of Truth is a safari of massive proportion, all beasts revealing their teeth. But you can't help to begin self-reflecting why? Why did this match made in heaven/hell implode after the landmark 1984? What happened with the family that saw Roth take one path and the Eddie, Alex, Michael take the Hagar train? I guess what I'm saying is why the hell did this take so long to come to fruition. Timing. In the state of rock n' roll you will never figure out timing. You just need to roll with it and when the planets align - when the feeling is there - you hit the record button and let loose. And Van Halen in 2012 have … and that's the beauty of rock n' roll we all get to revel in.



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