The Return of Van Halen

Courtesy of Interscope

 

Do you remember middle school? Yes, those long days of adolescent ambiguity, speculating if that someone from first period really did have a crush on you, making spitballs, starting food fights at lunch, doodling in your notebook while pretending to listen to the teacher … “Dude, check it out, I just drew a butt. LOL.” High school loomed large on the horizon, and everyone looked terrible in their P.E. gym shorts. Good God, it was all so terrible and hilarious.

 

Luckily for most of us in the current 18- to 22-year-old age bracket, our middle school years were filled with great music. For those of you who were budding classic rock fans, Van Halen’s newest offering, “A Different Kind of Truth,” is a godsend.

 

This album, their first since 1998’s “Van Halen III,” is the first to feature original lead vocalist David Lee Roth since he first left the band in 1985, and hearkens back to the musical style of their 1978 debut self-titled album.

 

All of this has sent Van Halen fans crying hallelujah from the mountaintops, not only because of a new album, but because a Van Halen that can only exist between the combined forces of David Lee Roth’s flamboyant swagger and Eddie Van Halen’s unstoppable, growling, tempestuous guitar playing is finally back. In the words of Mike Myers’ Wayne Campbell and Dana Carvey’s Garth Algar, “We’re not worthy!”

 

The album unfortunately gets off to a slow start. Be sure to skip the first track, “Tattoo.” Although it isn’t necessarily a terrible piece of songwriting, it’s an awful choice for a lead track, sounding as out of place as LMFAO in an opera house.

 

The standout track on “A Different Kind of Truth” is easily “Stay Frosty,” a tongue-in-cheek homage to Van Halen’s classic “Ice Cream Man.” The track begins with Eddie Van Halen playing a rollicking blues lick on an acoustic guitar. Then at 1:10, the band blows it all apart with full force. Some nice bonuses are Eddie’s solos and burning licks, 2:05-2:26 and 2:58 to close out the track.

 

“Stay frosty / chant it like a mantra / stay frosty / and there’s nothing you can’t handle / far and wide far as you can handle,” Roth sings; this track, however, is anything but.

 

Other top tracks include “She’s the Woman,” “You and Your Blues,” “China Town,” “Blood and Fire” and “Big River,” which features some of his best soloing on the album. These tracks remind listeners of what Van Halen’s music should be. Worlds away from their mid-’90s travesties, “Balance” and “Van Halen III,” “A Different Kind of Truth” is a celebration of that irreverent, ostentatious music from the band’s original lineup. It’s too bad that original bassist and backing vocalist Michael Anthony is not around to round out the authentic sound, but Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie’s son, plays the part admirably.

 

Eddie Van Halen was fond of comparing the band’s sound to that of Godzilla waking up. I’m glad to say that the beast has returned.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5