By at 1:32 AM Wednesday, February 1st 2012


Van Halen Come Out Swinging On ‘A Different Kind Of Truth’

Van Halen, Reviews


Van Halen‘s first new album with David Lee Roth on the mic in nearly 30 years arrives February 7 on Interscope, and the results are disarmingly good. A Different Kind Of Truth is a true return of the ’80s cock-rock overlords, a screaming triumph for the feathered-hair dreamers who held on through a cinematically epic series of lineup changes, band implosions and shifting tides of musical fashion. That old familiar feeling has returned, the unique flare of excitement that comes from a muscle car rhythm section led by a six-string wizard and a singing sexual megalodon with an ego that made Kanye look like a kid flaunting his new Spider-Man underoos – and the pipes to back up the strut.

Yes, Van Halen is back, and we’re not faced with a group of veterans simply trying to make sounds that their old selves would respect; A Different Kind of Truth is almost entirely culled from unpolished, unfinished and unreleased work the band had written in their heyday. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen has said several times over the years that he has over half a dozen albums’ worth of unreleased material in his archives from the band’s career, and former singer Sammy Hagar told Rolling Stone not long ago, “I heard this record is old outtakes from the old days. I mean, stuff from before I even joined the band. Because from what I heard, they aren’t working with new material. Ed and Dave didn’t actually write new songs.”

It’s an arguable copout, but a genius insulation nonetheless – pulling from a song sketchbook more than three decades old provides guidepoints to safeguard against the worn pathways of aging acts molesting their own legacy. Thankfully, these songs do not sound like old men putting on the smelly old spandex and combing over the strays. Fresh is the operative word here, a supremely confident swing for the fences in an understandable progression from the obsessively romanticized pre-Hagar era.

The choice of Tattoo as the lead single may have more to do with its peacocking pop factor than anything else, because despite being the opener it’s the low point for an otherwise fantastic album. Immediately, She’s The Woman taps into the ebullient ’80s spirit, a strong connection to a nostalgia-free strut and sexy, slick riffage – complete with a classic VH solo. A gem from the archives, the track appeared on a 1976 demo the band cut with Gene Simmons on production.

I wanna be your knight in shining pickup truck,” Roth juts over a mean little chugging guitar line, and it’s all there – the grunts, the little wailing asides, the random background “Whooo!” and “Yeayaa!” accents peppered around Eddie’s volleying squeals. The rev-up to the chorus is short and, like pulling into neutral before slamming into the next gear. It doesn’t really matter that Dave’s not singing “swamp meat salad” in Tattoo – the song just doesn’t connect with the energy found here, the knockout drive that pulled us in so long ago. Woman‘s hot groove catches fire and spins out as Wolfgang (who holds his own plenty fine throughout) rises in the mix, punching along to the beat before Dad rips loose with a solo that races the frantic rhythm back into the final verse.

But You And Your Blues creeps up dangerously amid chopping guitar, Roth’s hushed finger-wagging giving way to an echo chorus, casting out the demons with a had-enough-of-you backhand. There’s a sick little changeup at the two-minute mark, a serpentine acceleration before another screaming solo. Truly, the six-string snobs will have their hands full here, as Eddie brings an airtight assault of fretwork that runs flush with the original glory days.

Van Halen’s legendary tapping channels Beethoven for just a flash to kick off a furiously sprinting China Town, and the neckbreaker’s not alone in its frantic pace or celebratory energy; the fast-funk Bullethead blasts through with enough intensity to make the two-and-a-half minutes pass like a heartbeat, while Eddie’s skittering riff carries us through the labyrinthian As Is with a tenacious confidence – we’re fully in the red, the speedometer’s buried, machine gun heartbeat adding internal percussion while fishtailing down the freeway at impossible speeds. But a Thorogood blues-lick breakdown elbows its way in through a vicious dime-stopping halt, Roth dropping into a smooth-talking Satan-bass tone for just a moment… then we’re off again at a spastic gallop, punctuated by bursts of choral screams.

Known for their dramatic opening flare, the band open several tracks with decorative introductions, often led by experimental stringwork. The back-alley acoustic groove of Stay Frosty explodes into a bar-brawl swagger jam (with Diamond Dave seemingly possessed by the spirit of Dr. Seuss), and the medieval harkening of the onset of Big River sparks a curiosity on what would come of further exploration down that path. A somber plucked intro to Blood and Fire turns into a rollerskating-down-the-boardwalk jam right out of 1984, flashing million dollar crocodile grins at the Aqua-Net queens popping gum and swooning.

Told ya I was coming back,” Roth deadpans in the breakdown, and you can almost see his told-you-so smirk as the beast breaks through the clouds and into a brief clearing. Then it’s back down into the fray, Van Halen losing his shit in what’s arguably the album’s most exhilarating solo.

Anything less would’ve been eviscerated by all but the blind devoted, but A Different Kind of Truth will be remembered as evidence that a band can endure every cliche in the book and return, with the right focus, obsessed dedication and mojo, to a sweet spot of rejuvenation – one that holds the hand of nostalgia but doesn’t go for the full embrace, leaning instead, wisely, toward evolution.

Welcome back, boys.

Preorder A Different Kind of Truth on iTunes.


Van Halen

A Different Kind Of Truth

Released: 7/02/2012
Label: Interscope Records
1. Tattoo
2. She’s The Woman
3. You and Your Blues
4. China Town
5. Blood and Fire
6. Bullethead
7. As Is
8. Honeybabysweetiedoll
9. The Trouble With Never
10. Outta Space
11. Stay Frosty
12. Big River
13. Beats Workin’

Meanwhile, On The Internet...

  1. Rizz says:

    ”and a singing sexual megalodon with an ego that made Kanye look like a kid flaunting his new Spider-Man underoos”.

  2. Ken says:

    I don’t mean to be overly critical, because I really like the blog, but for me this hyperbole heavy review was entirely undermined by the phrase “and the pipes to back up the strut.” Dave has always been a great rock personality, but never the best singer. On the new album he is notably deficient in this area, even for Dave, and obviously off-key in spots. Not to hate or nitpick, but let’s call a spade a spade.

      • Cameron Poe says:

        Examples of Dave being a sub-par singer or examples of him being sub-par on this album? Or are you just looking for more examples of hyperbole from your article?

        • Examples of Dave fucking up on the album. He’s never been the most technically proficient singer, but he’s no slouch by any means, and he’s certainly on point with this collection.

          • Ken says:

            The opening verse of Blood and Fire, for example, he’s not quite hitting the notes. Where he sings the word “down” is particularly egregious. China Town he’s just barely managing to hit them before he has to go on to the next note. His vocals on both songs make me wince. Not to mention he probably doesn’t stray outside of a one octave range during anything I’ve heard so far. Maybe it’s nitpicking. Maybe I expected more. But I really do feel his vocals are barely competent on this album.

            • Holy nitpickery. I completely disagree. If you’re focusing on this level of minutia you’re leaping for things to criticize. I didn’t anticipate liking this album – in fact, I’m nowhere near a Van Halen fan. It holds up powerfully.

            • tbone57 says:

              Must. Auto-tune. Dave.

              What crap…

            • Ken says:

              Okay, I just heard the Beats Working clip. His vocals there are totally pathetic.

              • James says:

                I heard the same tune and I thought they rocked. I understand that with a name like Ken you would most possibly find a band like Van Halen scary and challenging. Let me guess, your all time favourite band is Maroon5 or something. A little history lesson for ya Ken, Rock & Roll has never been about operatic vocals, it’s about attitude and Dave has attitude in spades, but again, guys like YOU just don’t understand these things.

                • HOLY CRAP, this other KEN is giving KEN’s a bad name! FU! I’ve watched all the new vids I could find and this CD is a must-have work of art! I love Sammy but Diamond Dave is soooooooo going to rock.

            • James says:

              Sammy Lover Alert! Sammy Lover Alert!

    • James says:

      “I don’t mean to be overly critical” but then goes on to be overly critical. Idiot. This album RAWKS!

  3. DM says:

    As an old time fan, I did not expect much after nearly 30 yrs. Started to lose interest after OU812. However from the samples I have heard I could not be more stoked for this album!!! Your review of B&F is dead on! First time I heard it chills went down my spine. It took me to a different time.

  4. fcr says:

    VH is back!!!, DLR Like a boss!!

  5. Cameron Poe says:

    I think where many are confused or “tricked” into buying into the whole Roth is a great singer/ Van Halen is better with Roth is because of the band musically not vocally. Roth brings nothing to the table. If anyone questions this listen to any of his solo stuff “Just a Gigolo” “California Girls”. He’s terrible on these tracks. However, on the VH tracks that Dave sings on the band rocks much harder. Eddie plays much harder and more intricate guitar parts and the synthesizers are dialed back big time. Let’s all be honest here Roth is more of a hinderance than he is helping. So, in actuality what you get with Roth in the band is really an illusion that Roth is making VH better. However, it is really the musical choices of Eddie that coincide with Roth being in the band which really make them great. So in conclusion Roth is like a magicians illusion. You think he’s great because Eddie is great.

    • Ken says:

      Totally agree.

    • Rooktabula says:

      “Roth brings nothing to the table.”
      You obviously haven’t read Sam’s new autobio.
      He states that Roth was the MAIN guy, as he claims he too was, the guy that actually assembled and arranged the songs.
      That Ed is the riffs and ideas but he can’t put together a song to save his life.

      Facts bear this out.

      “However, it is really the musical choices of Eddie that coincide with Roth being in the band which really make them great. So in conclusion Roth is like a magicians illusion. You think he’s great because Eddie is great.”

      I’m impressed with how well that is typed with your head obviously so far up Sam’s ass.
      Or did Dave cancel a back stage pass you were holding and you’re grudging?!
      Seriously man…..

  6. Steve says:

    Eddie’s great because Roth is great. His lyrics are great, his attitude is great, and his live showmanship is great.
    Roth is the greatest frontman in Rock history.

  7. alex says:

    Odd, the new Van Halen stuff has seen more activity on here than anything else and I just don’t get it. Nobody every really gave a shit about them here but the US still seems to hold them dear.
    Theres more cheese in a Van Halen album that the south of France.

  8. Al says:

    I never really understood the whole thing from folks here that DLR wasn’t a good singer. IMO, the guy always had cool phrasing, good vibrato, and that scream thing where it sounds like his vocals split into two voices. I still haven’t heard anyone else do anything like that, and would have to credit that to being innovative and skilled.
    Now DLR is 57, and while he’s taken care of body, he’s probably not taken care of his voice (as in staying drug/alcohol/nicotine free). I can hear from the excerpts that he’s not all there, but neither is Chris Robinson from the Crowes, Robert Plant, Chris Cornell, or any other heavy rock singer who once had major skills that has now flipped the odometer on their vocal chords. Give him a break!
    That said, how anyone in the world would prefer that this VH release be a Sammy Hagar-led affair would have to be a fucking crack baby.
    I agree with one of the posters who said that part of DLR’s appeal is that he makes the band play differently. Perhaps it’s because he gives them a giant, hairy set of marbles where Sammy made Eddie want to hide behind a stack of synths so they could sell Crystal Pepsi.
    I listen to all kinds of music, including lots of stuff that gets props by AQ, and I am excited as hell to hear this record and see them in concert in Indy.
    Welcome back Van Halen!

  9. PHATJ says:

    What’s a Van Halen?

  10. layne_says says:

    Wolfie is the real star of the album if that is indeed him who wrote and played those bass parts. The Kid rips.

  11. DjFury says:

    It’s a lot better than I hoped. Maybe the release of the worst song as the single was a stroke of genius because I was so disappointed that anything would have sounded good after it. The best comment I’ve seen, and I wish I could take credit for it, was Tattoo = Star Wars prequels. I was sooooo disappointed when I heard it and saw the terrible video. They have redeemed themselves with the rest of the album though. Dave’s vocal range has suffered a lot over the years which is odd given than he hasn’t performed nearly as much as someone like Bono or Jagger who both can still manage most of their back catalog. Roth can’t shut up so maybe that’s how he’s done it in. :) It’s definitely the best VH album in 17 years.

  12. Todd says:

    Great review Johnny! They have a post about your review at Blabbermouth. Never thought they would be mentioning Antiquiet over there. Although this is not the first time. Part of the post below.

    According to The Pulse Of Radio, the first review of VAN HALEN’s new album, “A Different Kind Of Truth”, has been posted online at Antiquiet — and it’s overwhelmingly positive. Critic Johnny Firecloud says that the band’s first album with original singer David Lee Roth in 28 years is a “true return” and “screaming triumph,” adding, “That old familiar feeling has returned, the unique flare of excitement that comes from a muscle car rhythm section led by a six-string wizard and a singing sexual megalodon with an ego that made Kanye look like a kid flaunting his new Spider-Man underoos — and the pipes to back up the strut.”

  13. Jeff says:

    I read this exact same review at Does this Johnny guy just write reviews for the entire internet or something?

    Either way, good review.

  14. dhani says:

    Mr. Firecloud, I will take your word that this album is all you say it is.

  15. DjFury says:

    Not trying to start an old debate, but how good would Beats Workin’ be with Michael Anthony’s background vocals?

  16. ropodope says:

    i just cannot believe that this VH album would sound as good as it does. smh with wonderful amazement. wow!!!

  17. Pif says:

    I had, like many, given up any hope for this album quite early, thanks mainly to “Tatoo”, but gave a listen to the song clips ust because of this review and am quite glad I did. I will definitely pick this when it’s released.

  18. Pif says:

    Also, maybe it’s just me, but EVH’s clean sounds never have been this good (cf. “Blood and Fire” intro) but most of his distorted tones seem more generic than usual.

  19. Pete says:

    This is a very good album, although my expectation weren’t very high. I was very surprised that the band is still as powerful as ever, and the Van Halen sound has stood the test of time. Eddie’s playing is top notch, and DLR’s vocals are as good as just about any lead singer pushing sixty. He might not hit every note, but it’s Diamond Dave, and his bag of tricks that he brings to the table. This is what the fans wanted, the Original Van Halen back (Minus One) , and this is what we got. This CD will be in my rotation for the forseeable future. Thumbs up!

  20. mcdo says:

    I like Tattoo :(

  21. Al(ex) says:

    I just saw VH last night in Indianapolis and they were great. DLR sounded better than I expected and the band was smoking. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wish they would have played more new stuff off the CD. Nonetheless, a killer show that looks to be gaining momentum from show to show.

  22. Pat says:

    I don’t get all the comments about Roth’s ability to carry a note. He’s 57 and can’t do what he used to. What about Eddie? This isn’t Van Halen. Been a VH fan since ’78 and this albums’ in the tank! Van Halen is not a metal band, never has been or will be and don’t give any credibility to critics who claim VH is a metal band. They’re a rock band. Different Kind of Truth sounds like EVH is trying desperately to invent a new style and sound. Doesn’t sound anything like classic VH. Bring back Sammy and tell Eddie to start drinking again. For as long as fans have waited, VH could have put a bit more effort into this one. It will be a bigger flop than the VH III CD with Cherone.

  23. Al(ex) says:

    Pat, you’ve been a fan since ’78, heard the new CD and didn’t like it? I find that surprising. But if Hagar is more your cup of piss, then so be it, to each their own. I saw VH with Sammy in ’95 (won tickets, would have NEVER bought any), with Dave in ’07, and again last night. I’ll take Dave and Wolfgang over Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar hands down. The band is in fantastic shape, the CD is #1 on rock charts and definitely NOT tanking, and most fan reviews are glowingly positive. i was surprised that AQ gave it such glowing reviews as this album is not their normal demographic. I’m telling you man, I wish they would have played MORE songs from the new CD last night, and I dearly love VHI-1984… Maybe you should listen to the new CD a few more times or something, because the thing hits hard. If your advice is for them to get Hagar back and for Ed to start drinking again, maybe others shouldn’t consult you for career advice…just sayin’.

  24. Sick4Tunz says:

    I’ve been listening to them since ’78. I played A different Kind of Truth last night and was somewhat disappointed. It sounds more like a post 1984 David Lee Roth Eat ‘Em and Smile like album than Van Halen. Or maybe its me, realizing that there is so much other better music out there right now than just DLR dialed up to maximum ego/volume.

  25. Caliswain says:

    I had to give this ‘album’ about 5 full listens to fully appreciate it….and I’m with most fans in that I’m very impressed by the energy and aggresiveness of this album. As for DLR…. he does very well with what he has at 57…. not only does he make Eddie play to a style I like much better, but he also has an influence in Eddies tone and the overall tone of the mix, which is much more of the hard rock variety… .DLR has said many times and in the early years he had to constantly fight Eddie not to make his tone too ‘tinny’ and you heard what happened starting with 5150….

    PS… Eddie plays LIGHTS OUT on this album…. focused, aggressive, and not too much of any one style or trick. Also, Wolfie is playing his butt off no doubt… however in fairness I think that MA was limited in what he was allow to play in years past, but still for a 20 year old… he’s keeping up with Dad pretty darn well.

    All and all I love this new album and give it a B+, but an A+ for how surprised how this has all transpired as really, who would have thought this all would have played out like this just 6-7 years ago.

  26. pat says:

    You guy’s are hi! Listen to sick4tunz. Listen to “Bullet Head” and “China Town”. They sound just like a DLR CD crazy from the heat. In fact Eddie almost sounds like a make shift Steve Vai! This isn’t Van Halen. What a disappointment! What happened to the classic sound? Why are these guy’s trying to reinvent themselves?

  27. Al(ex) says:

    Go ahead and put this album in the Top 10 of 2012.

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