Let's cut the crap and get this out of the way..."Why is Thrashhead reviewing the new VAN HALEN?" The answer is simple...Although we focus on the heavier sides of hardcore punk and metal we like some other shit too. And we're kind of old. I was listening to VAN HALEN before I ever had a mohawk or a SLAYER album. Just because it's not "brutal" or "cult" doesn't mean it can't kick ass. This is a band that has left its mark on my life and it's my website! If you want a site that doesn't cover stuff like this go to www.elitistholierthanthoudouchebags.com. Guarantee they don't cover the new VAN HALEN.
I haven't bought a VAN HALEN album since 1984; the year and the album. Wasn't into Van Hagar, it didn't work for me. Sure they were more successful commercially, the fact remains that by that time they were writing less from the heart and more from the advice of record labels to produce more money making hits. Needless to say it was a very special moment as I handed over my money for this sure-to-be-classic. The dude at the counter and I had a good conversation about how amazing it was to be buying a David Lee Roth led VAN HALEN album and shared a couple of quick stories. I got in my truck and flipped through Steve Job's magic little device and proceeded to crank 'Fair Warning' for the drive home. Fuck yeah.
'Tattoo' is the first single and first track on the album. Although the riff and song itself aren't that bad it's the chorus that just kills me. It is so annoying I almost have to skip this track when I put the CD on. The next couple of songs are good and full VAN HALEN patented swagger and cool including the back-up harmonized vocals that are a must on anything that is going to be called a VAN HALEN record. Historically it was the missing member Michael Anthony that had been credited for delivering those little ditties but whoever is humming them out today is doing a fine job.
It's really not until the 4th song 'China Town' that things really hick into gear. This song is as fast as a runaway locomotive and is a headbanging, fist in the air lesson in Eddie Van Halen badassery! 'Bullethead' is another rocker that keeps a smile on my face and my foot a tappin'! And it just keeps going from there! Fingers are a blazing and dancing around the neck of that guitar while Alex plows ahead with and almost constant double-kick assault as they rip through the next several tunes all just straight up classic VAN HALEN. I'm working up a sweat as I rock and type and rock out some more! VAN HALEN is pushing ahead at full throttle and waving middle fingers to Sammy as they do it! CHICKENFOOT blows Chicken balls!
'Stay Frosty' starts out acoustically and finally gives into more hard rockin' punishment from the VAN HALEN brothers with Roth in tow. Again, from the 4th song on this album just gets it done and brings a big ol' shit eating grin to my face. Especially since I am listening to it the night before the rest of the world gets their dirty little hands on it. The guy at the record store is cool to me that way!
Eddie and Alex are on the top of their game with this one. There is no denying that, it is simple fact. Roth holds his own, his vocals are good and he hits some decent notes but his patented ultra-high pitch squeal is absent from his delivery. He never was a great vocalist, he just had a unique voice and a shit ton of style. With that said I stand by his vocal performance as being good, it is undeniably David Lee Roth and that is that! There will be haters and let them hate; Roth hangs in there and gets the job done. He is one of the greatest front men that has ever lived!
One thing that I did notice as I was freshly coming off of a 'Fair Warning' high as I dove into this new endeavor was the guitars. Oh, believe me, it's fast fingers Eddie all the way and his tone is boss. But...it is missing a bit of the crunch and heaviness heard on the earlier albums. You know what I mean; when he hits a chord and the hair on your neck stands up and you can feel it in your stomach? Yeah!...This might be a bit of the analog world versus the digital world at play here, so many albums just sounds too clean and sterile these days and it's a tragedy. They miss that gritty, dirty rock n' roll punch in the dick!
There was a lot of controversy with the fact that this album was compiled of old song ideas and outtakes. SO FUCKING WHAT!!! A lot of bands look at old riffs and song ideas when writing albums. Iommi has made it clear that he "never throws away a riff" and revisits old ideas when he writes. I wish more bands would look at their past works before meandering off into wandering albums. I commend the fact that they had the sensibility to do such a thing. Who knows...this could be the last VAN HALEN studio album, these dudes (Eddie) just don't have a reputation for being able to get along with each other or for releasing consistent and quality material.
With that I said I recommend anyone and everyone hang up whatever hang-ups they have, turn up the volume and blast out 'A Different Kind of Truth'!
End note: Yes I got my tickets for the VH tour!
End note 2: The coolest thing is my Dad bought them. He just turned 65 and wants to rock to VAN HALEN with his 40 year old kids! Badass! Thanks Dad!