Tempers calmed. Egos balmed.
Surely, there were a handful of revisionist machinations and soothing
soliloquies made on the behest of all involved so to get revolutionary
guitarist Eddie Van Halen and schmaltzy libidinal vocalist David Lee Roth into
the same studio. All that, and for its twelfth album – its first of completely
new material since 1998, its first since 1984 to feature David Lee Roth, its
first to feature Wolfgang Van Halen on bass, its first for their new label
Interscope – Van Halen have found their dazzle without a hassle.
They bid, upped their own ante and
beat the dealer at the same big swinging raunchy rock game they invented in the
first place. And they did so, on occasion, by basing several of Different Kind’s new songs on old demo
tracks and unrecorded lyrical bits from their pre-signing days with Warners in
the ‘70s. That trick of memory makes it so that “She’s the Woman” – a
tune on the 1976 demo that snagged VH its deal with WB – has the feel of
vintage Eddie-n-Dave pairings only with some new melodic blips, a punchy middle
section and a crackling guitar solo that conjures the quartet’s raging hormonal
Harder, speedier, riff-ier and
more rugged than anything Eddie Van has done since Diamond Dave split the
ranks, the frenemies seem to push each other through all its usual suspicions.
The blistering big backbeats of Alex Van is given a pliable rhythmic lift
courtesy Wolfgang (Michael Anthony’s knuckle dragging eighth-note groove isn’t
missed; his high background vocals are but not enough to panic). Eddie’s raffish
riffing on the likes of the short-n-sharp likes of “Honeybabysweetiedoll” and
“Outta Space” is the stuff of carnal meth-head metal joy. The melodies are only
made sexier by Eddie’s blustery swelling solos.
Added to all this is the rude
crude and bluesy growls of Lee Roth. He doesn’t sound as if he can hit the
power highs of “Jamie’s Crying” anymore but the basso profundo talking blues of
“Tattoo” is Roth in the pocket corner, winking lascivious and cocksure. Here,
his signature ass-grabby saltiness (“mousewife to momshell in the time it took
to get that new tattoo”) and gusto-coughing vocals are matched perfectly to the
groovy. I said the word “pocket” before – that’s the place where Roth resides
best – on “Beats Working,” on “As Is,” on every thing that’s fine about A Different Kind of Truth. Few rock
singers can find the pocket and swing within as Roth does. Sorry haters. It’s
just the facts. That’s even clearer on “Stay Frosty,” the lone blowsy
acoustic-intro-ed slow song that’s reminiscent of VH’s ye olde “Ice Cream Man.”
It’s a honey of a chatty ballad through which Roth provides the vinegar.
I’m not trying to get you to spend
more money but the deluxe version of this new album is worth investing in for
its bonus DVD called The Downtown Sessions, which features acoustic
versions of “Panama”,
“You and Your Blues (Intro)”, “You and Your Blues” and
“Beautiful Girls.” Even their stripped down versions swing.
DOWNLOAD: “Tattoo,” “She’s
the Woman,” “Big River”