Capturing lighting in a bottle is hard enough, let alone twice in one career. And some bands, when having a reunion, quickly fade from the spotlight in which they came from.
When the original line up of Van Halen; guitarist Eddie, drummer Alex, bassist Michael Anthony and singer David Lee Roth first exploded onto the music scene in 1978 with the release of their self-titled “Van Halen”, many held it as a musical breakthrough. Eddie’s revolutionary guitar playing along with Roth’s over-the-top stage presence made them one of the fore runners of bands at the time.
Six years and 5 platinum albums later, tempters soon flared and Roth would soon leave to a solo career. The band would enjoy more success with former Montrose and solo artist Sammy Hagar taking over vocal duties, but many argued that it was not true Van Halen or just simply “Van Hagar” as songs would have more of a commercial spin on them.
So when after almost 30 years, 2 lead singers (Hagar, Gary Cherone) and 1 bassist change (Michael Anthony), original Van Halen singer David Lee Roth would finally reunite with the band in 2008, and thoughts quickly came to what new music would sound like. After all for many years, fans have wondered how collaboration with vocalist David Lee Roth would fair again.
That collaboration would be known to be called 2012’s “A Different Kind of Truth”.
“A sort of collaboration with their past”, as Roth has said, this album is a more of a throwback to the bands past, as most of the songs were already written pre-Van Halen’s first album. Not a bad decision in my opinion. Sometimes you have to dig out your past to remember how to get there instead trying to recreate it from scratch. Good choice for not trying to modernize the songs also.
Songs such as You And Your Blues, China Town, Outta Space and Beats Workin’ definitely have that early Van Halen feel. And we all agree that Stay Frosty is 2012’s version of Ice Cream Man.
Other songs such as Blood And Fire (which I love when Roth himself easily says, “I told you I’d be back…”) and Big River could have been easily placed into 1980’s Women and Children First.
I, myself, always thought that the next Van Halen album should be back to what made them popular. Eddie’s dynamic guitar, Roth’s raunchy, womanizing lyrics, followed by the exceptional playing of Alex and Wolfgang (this time). And once more Eddie’s guitar playing has become one of the main focal points of the album. Play to your strengths. I know that Van Halen does not want to think of themselves as “America’s Party Band”, but when that suit fits you so well and produces such great music, it might be something that you might want to embrace at certain times.
Alex Van Halen’s playing on this record (did I just call it that?) is exceptional. Never one to be off his A-game, in fact the only album I think he ever was slightly off was the first Van Halen album. Even though I’ve heard that some will argue that his snare is a bit too tight. Wolfgang does a nice job also in his first original recording for the band. At times I distinctly heard his bass playing over his father’s guitar. And being one to overshadow Eddie Van Halen does not come easy.
Now, everything is not completely great with this album. Unfortunately age has caught up with Mr. Roth, as you can tell that his voice has become deeper, as I could not hear or tell any of his signature high pitch squeals that were frequent on earlier albums. Also I feel that their single of “Tattoo” was not a good representation of how the album is. Although I understand the choice as I see it as the most commercial, radio friendly song available on the album.
For those who were anxiously waiting for the band to return and “come back to form”, I believe that this album will surely fill that need. The fantastic guitar playing, along with the songs will make you feel like the Roth-era of the band has almost never skipped a beat. Even though it took almost 30 years for this to happen.
I definitely recommend picking up this album.