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Van Halen- A Different Kind of Truth

A Different Kind of Truth’ is Van Halen’s long-awaited reunion album with David Lee Roth and it doesn’t disappoint. Although it’s only February, ‘Truth’ might actually be one of the year’s best releases. And while you can read the album review in our Entertainment section, here is a song by song review of the album on Philly Buzz.


Tattoo- By now, everyone has heard the band’s long awaited single which kicks off the album. ‘Tattoo’ is a reworking of ‘Down in Flames,’ which was played occasionally on the band’s first world tour in 1978. In a move similar to U2, the first single Van Halen released off their album wasn’t really indicative of what was to come. Though it was met with generally mixed reviews, ‘Tattoo’ ventured into some new territory of sorts for the band. The late era Led Zeppelin-esque synthesizer on the verses combined with Eddie and Alex Van Halen's slower than usual but strong and steady groove nicely compliments Roth’s tribute to permanent pigments. And as always, Eddie absolutely shreds on the solo. As you’ll hear on the original, Eddie often repeats the beginning of ‘You’re No Good,Van Halen II’s opening track, which is heard at the end of ‘Tattoo.' If the guy's at Interscope planned to temper expectations of the new album by releasing perhaps the weakest track as it's first song, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. 

She’s the Woman- A song very familiar with hard core Van Halen fans, ‘She’s the Woman’ was a staple during the band’s club days on the Sunset Strip. It was even included in the band’s Warner Brothers demos from 1977.  However, it was never officially released by the band until now. If you click on the link above, you’ll notice the breakdown in the middle and near the end of the track turned into ‘Mean Street’ from “Fair Warning.” The band played the song at their ‘Cafe Wha?’ gig in early January, where Wolfgang layed down a smoking groove that’s identical to the album. Unfortunately, the drum solo Alex often performed during the live versions of the song was not included on ‘Truth.’

You and Your Blues- To be honest, I’m trying to compare this to another Van Halen song and I actually can’t, and I mean this in a good way. ‘You and Your Blues’ has all the elements of a classic Van Halen song: a catchy chorus combined with flashy work from Eddie and the band. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a future single. Here is a preview.

Chinatown- With an opening intro from Eddie that could almost pass for a death metal track, “Chinatown” is arguably the hardest song the band has ever recorded. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the song is the work of Alex and Wolfgang. I know it’s an overused cliche, but the rhythm section here is absolutely bone crunching, with Alex pushing his double bass to the max. This is something I would have liked to see more when Michael Anthony was in the band.

Blood and Fire-  A catchy track from the word go, the basic music for ‘Blood and Fire’ had been used by Eddie Van Halen on the soundtrack for 1984’s “The Wild Life.” The track could easily have fit on 1982’s Diver Down, relying more on melody than sheer power (although it offers a little of both).  Just think “Little Guitars” combined with “In a Simple Rhyme.” The song’s chorus combined with the song’s scorching bridge leading up to the final chorus is pretty intense. Just prior to Eddie’s solo, Roth deadpans “Told ‘ya I was coming back,” just as Eddie tears into a riff reminiscent of ’Romeo Delight.’ Definitely a strong track.

Bullethead- Another smoking song from the band’s club days that was dug up for ‘Truth.’  Not much has changed here as far as the musical arrangement from 1977, and the background vocals are solid too! One noticeable addition is the title of the new album in the lyrics. Simply put, this is straight ahead, balls to the wall rock. There are some moments on truth which the band pushed their sound to the brink of thrash metal, and ‘Bullethead’ is one of those moments. The most amusing lyric of the song I keep going back to? “Do you really really drive this way, just to piss me off.”  Gotta love Dave.

As Is- You usually get some kind of speaking role in one form or another from Alex on a Van Halen album. And after counting off the intro and arguably laying down his most thunderous opening since ‘Everybody Wants Some,’ ‘As Is’  turns  into a blistering rocker, continuing with the theme of the album’s heaviness. Think of a faster version of “Sinners Swing!’ combined with ‘Hot For Teacher.’  It’s a little bit of a stretch to call this a previous demo, but Eddie’s riff was taken from his cameo appearance on ‘Two and a Half Men.’

Honeybabysweetiedoll-  To be honest, this is kind of where the album hits a lull, although it’s extremely brief. What saves this song are some of its sonic nuances, which make it sound like an outtake from Woman and Children First. Not a bad song, but not necessarily the first one I would pick off the album as a standout.

The Trouble With Never- Eddie, Alex, and Wolfie waste no time getting into this one right from the start. It’s opening groove is something you could actually find on a Red Hot Chili Peppers album, complete with Dave’s spoken/sung verses followed by a poppy chorus featuring background vocals in the vein of Anthony. The bookends to this song give off a hard rock/funk feel, while the slower breakdown in the middle gives off a ‘System of a Down’ type of vibe. It’s a welcome change, and Roth’s ode to ‘Dance the Night Away’ is a nice touch as well.   

Outta Space-  This was formerly ‘Let’s Get Rockin,’ another one of the Warner Brothers 1977 demos.  Some of the later breakdowns featuring Eddie are exceptional, as he, Alex and Wolfgang play in syncopated rhythms. And although Roth is singing in somewhat of a falsetto voice for the majority of the verses, he pulls it off well enough to hold down the fort.

Stay Frosty- If ‘Ice Cream Man’ had a sister, it would be ‘Stay Frosty.’ From the acoustic guitar at the beginning to Alex’s drums on the verses, the similarities are impossible to ignore. Whether Roth played the acoustic guitar on this track as well is unknown, but chances are this was not something Eddie and Alex had worked on in previous years because DLR has his name written all over this. If you listen closely, the opening guitar seems very similar to ‘Friends’ from Led Zeppelin III, and you can also find some traces of ‘Bottoms Up!” from Van Halen II in there as well. The track was first heard on an episode of CSI in a strip club, and I must admit, the song fit the scene perfectly (or vice versa). ‘Truth’ needed a track like this. Vintage Dave.

Big River- The more you play this song, the more you like it. You first get the impression that the song is a ballad with Eddie’s soft intro. But have no fear: the band kicks into high gear soon after, with Eddie ripping into a Metallica-like solo during the bridge while the band grooves on the chorus as opposed to the verses. Trust me, you’ll be singing the catchy chorus to yourself after the first half dozen listens or so. “Big River, ROLLIN!”  An album highlight.

Beats Workin-  If Van Halen were making hit records in 1974, it would probably sound like this. Funny I should say that. In news that will shock nobody by now, “Beats Workin’ was resurrected from Put Out the Lights, which was featured on the Gene Simmons 1976 demos. The album’s closer sounds like something straight out of AC/DC during the first half minute or so, as Eddie lays down some power chords that are simple but effective before turning into. This is not Roth’s strongest song vocally, but he holds it together as Eddie plays to his strengths. Despite the ode to 70’s rock, the song doesn’t sound dated. Think summertime at a backyard BBQ in the middle of the afternoon when you’re on your third or fourth beer. That’s ‘Beats Workin. And on top of that, Alex uses the cowbell!

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com 

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