Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth

Since their self-titled debut in 1978 Van Halen have led a career full of screaming stadiums, classic rock smash hits and speeding guitar solos, creating a style that would be carbon copied by countless bands throughout the 80s. Somewhere along the line though, a line full of cheesy power ballads, back injuries, misjudged musical experiments and Sammy Hagar, these monsters of rock became dated dinosaurs, more a footnote on the LA glory days that the unstoppable force many other classic bands become. 34 years later a mostly classic line up returns with their first record in 14 years, A Different Kind Of Truth.

First things first, Van Halen don’t sound their age. The recording is vibrant with an unsurprisingly huge guitar sound. The surprises do come in how well Wolfgang Van Halen and his uncle Alex lock in together on bass and drums. For a rhythm unit that has only been playing for four years, in a band that has been playing together for more than eight times longer, it speaks volumes for their compatibility; no cries for the return of Michael Anthony here.

The band are channelling the hard rocking days of Van Halen II more that pop smash 1984; the album is lean on overdubs and there isn’t a ballad or synth in sight. As Is and You and Your Blues charge out of your speakers with a vengeance with saturated and snapping guitar solos hot on each of their heels. David Lee Roth is sounding fantastic, not hitting the high notes of his prime but comfortable in a gravely wail, put to work perfectly on the records shining star China Town.

Unfortunately it isn’t all high points. Bullethead clunks along awkwardly where it should charge while Roth spits clumsy lines like “How many roads must a man walk before he thinks he’s lost.” To avoid singing songs about cars and girls, Roth has found himself out of his depth; The Trouble With Never is rife with cliché’s like “When was the last time you did something for the first time.” While these are hardly the worst lyrics put to music it does make you wish they’d cut the whole track to leave the record a little leaner and meaner.

Eddie Van Halen does come across as the driving force on the record. His addictive riffs save half cooked single Tattoo and his nod to their rockabilly and bluegrass influences with his deft finger picking on the kitsch and fun Stay Frosty add a nice shift in dynamics for the albums later half. His six string skills have only strengthened with age and while his style is often imitated he has proves that nothing can beat the original.