The Austin Chronicle

Phases & Stages

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, February 24, 2012, Music

Van Halen

A Different Kind of Truth (Interscope)

Van Halen's first six albums, one a year beginning in 1978 except for a two-year swing for David Lee Roth's final disc, 1984, homogenize the model efficiency of Britain's two best quartets, mashing up harmony-laden Beatlesesque pop and Hammer of the Gods firepower. At 35 minutes, the original Southern California quartet's self-titled debut clocks in as the longest full-length of Van Halen's initial incarnation, the rest ripping and grinning at the Ramonesian clip of barely a half hour. Fumbled title aside, the first clue that A Different Kind of Truth arrives from a wholly different century than its half-dozen siblings despite Diamond Dave's dream reunification with Van Halen brothers Eddie and Alex turns up in its 50-minute run time. That's Van Hagar hubris. Especially since just as Van Halen probably should have closed shop with vaudevillian bazooka "Ice Cream Man," its not-so-distant cousin here, "Stay Frosty," would have proven the perfect conclusion instead of a pair of throwaways that sound frighteningly like the Sammy Hagar era of the band, say For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Worse, the production apes third-generation cassette dubs – a plus, actually, in tamping down Alex's sonic-boom drum sound – while Van Halen's barbershop vocal purity has gone the way of original bassist Michael Anthony, unceremoniously beheaded for the ascension of Eddie's kid Wolfgang. And leadoff song and single "Tattoo" might as well be the third new Roth tune appended to 1996's Best of Van Halen Vol. 1. But wait. "She's the Woman" echoes Van Halen's "I'm the One," the guitarist's titanic razzle-dazzle breathtaking in both density and dexterity. Eric Clapton's easily impersonated and even Angus Young blends in blueswise, but only Eddie Van Halen remains so unmistakably space age in speed, tone, and unchained aggression. Meanwhile, Alex's paddle-boat beat in "China Town" summons 1984's "Hot for Teacher," as does "Bullethead" – or is that "Panama"? The latter's follow-up, "As Is," with its "Teacher"-like asides and corkscrew riff, whiffs 1984's "Top Jimmy" before its chorus and back-end breakdown jets us back to that MTV high school classroom set, its solo radioactive. "Blood and Fire" could be off Van Halen II or Diver Down, "Honeybabysweetiedoll" from Fair Warning, and "The Trouble With Never," with its typically smart-ass DLR lyric, would be right at home on any of the first LPs. Atomic punk: "Outta Space." A Different Kind of Truth, lucky No. 7.


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