I was skeptical. I didn’t think it would be any good. I figured it was a cash grab. I was wrong. Well, it might still be a cash grab, but a darn groovy one at that.
Add It To The Collection: We all know that A Different Kind Of Truth is the first Van Halen album since 1984 to reunite lead singer and ring leader David Lee Roth with the Van Halens; brothers Eddie, Alex and Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, who is doing an admirable job making me forget about original bassist Michael Anthony. If you divide Van Halen in to three eras – (i) Roth (ii) Sammy Hagar or Van Hagar and (iii) Gary Cherone or Van Xtreme – this would technically be the band’s seventh album with Roth on vocals. More importantly, this would be the follow-up to VH’s incredible crossover, breakthrough masterpiece 1984 which played out perfectly in arenas, stadiums, schoolyards, backyards and on old Sony Walkmen. I actually remember going to a roller-skating birthday party at the age of 10 and “Jump” being played three times as we barrelled around the rink. If there’s an iconic moment of the early 1980’s, for me it’s the image of Roth karate-kicking his way in to living rooms across the continent via MTV.
Fast-forward 28 years, two lead singers, failed reunions, break-ups, and some of the most legendary feuds, and you arrive at A Different Kind Of Truth. It isn’t a perfect album, but it’s far superior to anything I could have predicted we’d get from these guys. Sure the band reaches back in their catalogue to reconfigure some leftover demos, but so what. My main complaint is that the album is probably a little long – a common problem these days. Take the 10 best songs on ADKOT and you have a legitimate powerhouse follow-up to the nine tracks on 1984.
I can’t imagine how huge this album would have been had it come out in or around 1986 at a time when hard rock was mainstream. In the context of that year’s other major rock releases – Metallica’s Master Of Puppets, Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet, Night Songs by Cinderella, and even G’n’R’s Live Like A Suicide EP, Van Halen would have ruled the world of rock.
By today’s standards, the album is a revelation for old-school Van Halen fans who have always held out for a proper reunion, but I’m sure after an initial strong debut on the charts, it will fade. There just isn’t proper radio support for this kind of music anymore. And that’s too bad because tracks like “Blood And Fire”, “You And Your Blues” and “As Is” are quintessential rock radio anthems.
Must Have Track: “Stay Frosty” should be the last track on ADKOT as it would close out the record perfectly. It’s a direct nod to the Halen classic “Ice Cream Man” from the their 1978 debut and highlights all that is great about the band as Eddie takes a pretty standard blues riff and turns it in to a gnarling monster while Alex and Wolfgang keep toes tapping with a killer groove. Mix in some classic Roth scatting along to the groove and knocking out yelps and screeches just like the old days. It’s Van Halen at their dirty, humorous, masterful best.