Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Van Halen - "A Different Kind of Truth" First Impressions

So, I got up this morning and, first thing, downloaded the new Van Halen album A Different Kind of Truth.

Now, you may wonder why I would do this, as I've been pretty vocal about my fears for this "reunion" and album. I've also been up front about my lack of enthusiasm for the material that's been released so far. Frankly, the reason I've been disappointed is that I hold Van Halen to a pretty high level. I am a fan, and have been a fan of every version of this band. I don't indulge the Hagar/Roth/Cherone bitchfest/battle, because I feel like all the version of the band brought interesting things to the table. Yes, I have personal preferences, but I certainly don't think that my favorite era should be everyone's, or that it makes the other eras irrelevant.

So, when I began my trek to work this morning, I cranked up A Different Kind of Truth on the headphones for a first listen. What I'm presenting here shouldn't be considered an in-depth review, but my basic reactions. I'm sure to listen to this album a lot more, have further thoughts, but right now, this is where I'm at.

First, the good. The band sounds good, production is crisp, and everybody's pulling their weight. Assuming Wolfgang actually played bass, and Eddie didn't pull a Mike Anthony on him and do the parts himself, he acquits himself very well. Alex, for all of his medical problems, sounds just as powerful as ever.

Eddie delivers on 15 years of waiting. The guitar is on fire, and he's playing his ass off. Roth's abilities have slid, the voice ain't what it used to be, I don't think anyone can claim otherwise, but he amps the charm and the attitude and pulls it off. It's clear this is a group of musicians that can do what they want, when they want...

Which leads us right to the bad. The material. I can't think of a single track on this album that even approaches a "great song." OK? High-energy? Moments of greatness? They're all there, but they don't coalesce into a powerful whole. Trying to look at it objectively, "Tattoo" probably comes the closest, and, to my ears, it's just on the dull side. "Bullethead," in particular, sounds like "Van Halen for Morons."

At this point, it seems the band is all but admitting these tracks represent re-workings of demos and discarded tracks from the early 80's/late 70's. I can't help but feel this was a huge mistake, and I also can't help but wonder if the band couldn't stand to be around each other long enough to actually write new songs. Almost every track feels more-or-less like a half-baked version of one of their classics, making the entire affair feel like the worst kind of reunion project. All the parts are there, but the spark? The magic? I haven't found it yet.

I will keep looking for a while. My opinion has been know to change, sometimes radically, as I spend more time with an album.

No comments:

Post a Comment