Review Summary: Van Halen Returns!! With the worst album of their career and no, Van Halen 3 doesn't count!
For my 20th review, I wanted to write something extremely special, a band I hold dear to my heart, and write the most stellar review I have ever had the pleasure of typing into the review section of Sputnik!!
Van Halen returned after what seemed to be an eternity. They probably built up as much hype as a band of their stature can build. Though Eddie Van Halen is not quite as eccentric as Axl Rose, the monumental wait is evocative of the same eternal postponement that Chinese Democracy had. Rabid Van Halen fans frothing at the mouth waiting for the return of the hero that re-invented guitar rock as we know it. No one can take away the fact that Eddie Van Halen is one of the most recognized guitar players since Jimi Hendrix. He took the instrument and did things that no one else was doing with it at the time.
What he did with it on this album is almost intolerable. He sounds like he simply just didn't give a ****. The riffs all sound vaguely familiar...probably because they are. He simply rehashed a bunch of half-baked riffs and culled them into being 'songs'. C'mon, he was 56 or 57 when he recorded this? I know that he had written a lot of these riffs, years earlier, while he was stroking his ego and playing musical chairs with former Van Halen vocalists, Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth. Since he couldn't pick a singer, these riffs just sat alone, unaccompanied by an actual band. Perhaps they were actually written out as tablature, scratched out on some paper napkins, or recorded on a four track so he wouldn't forget them once he picked a vocalist.
While he was at it, he also went ahead and fired their original bassist, Michael Anthony. While Eddie IS what made Van Halen more than just another hard rock band, Anthony's contributions cannot be overlooked. He was far more than just some root note joe like what most of today's current hard rock bassists perform. His pulsating rhythms and stellar backing vocals filled out the music in enumerable ways. But Eddie's son, Wolfgang, needed a job, and Eddie figured it was time to put him to work. So like most good fathers, he helped his son out with his musical career, and fired an old friend.
Perhaps his cigarette smoking had cut off too much oxygen to his brain, or even more so, alcohol actually killed off most of his brain cells. But enough on Eddie, I'm kind of sick of talking about him. We can just leave it at the fact that his playing isn't quite up to snuff and that most of the riffs on here will only please the most diehard Van Halen fans. Moving on to David Lee Roth. I'm not sure quite happened to Diamond Dave, besides the fact that he sounds like he got neutered. His wild man antics and his superb front-man abilities don't translate into good singing. He will always be inferior to Sammy Hagar, regardless of 'which' version of the band you prefer. Boiled down to pure technical ability, Roth just simply blows. He is old enough to be someone's grandpa but he is still writing lyrics that are as juvenile as what you would find on a Green Day or Blink 182 album. 'Show me your tattoo'? That was the first single released? I never heard that on the radio, but if I did, I'm not sure where that would fit in between the latest Five Finger Death Punch and Nickelback song.
I'm just exhausted about even talking about Van Halen or their latest album. It would have been relegated almost instantly to the $1.99 bin (if actual brick and mortar CD stores still existed). I don't even want to HEAR an argument about age or a band sticking to their roots. Just take a listen to the last King's X album. Dug Pinnick is in his 60's and is still singing balls-to-the-wall. There are still many hard rock and metal artists that still sound relevant deep into their career. A band maintaining its signature sound while still keeping up with the times is not unheard of. This album could have been b-sides to any 'Roth' album from the early 80's. Even the production sounds dated. While it doesn't reach the horrendous Metallica standard of a huge band that has ridiculously bad production, it isn't stellar by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps if Eddie Van Halen had just kept drinking like he had been and Roth started a stint in Vegas along with Elton John and Celine Dion and the other has-beens of a bygone era, we wouldn't have been cursed with this pile of trash.
Wait, I'm not done yet. Actually, I think that Wolfgang should at least get some kind of credit. He CAN actually play the bass. Maybe he should go form a band with Julian Lennon and Jason Bonham and they could form a supergroup. It could be called, My Daddy Made Me Do It. Instead of serving time, playing to a dozen people a rat-hole bar, submitting endless demos, fighting their way up in the ultra-competitive world that is popular music, they just get instant name recognition from sucking off their father's tit.
I think they crapped this album out because they didn’t want to end their career with their last album being recorded with ‘that guy’ from Extreme. So we were blessed with this. Just look at the title…’A Different Kind of Truth’…you can read so much into that. The title actually IS deep. Just what ‘truth’ you are getting is anyone’s guess. But I actually have a guess. The different kind of truth you are getting is that Van Halen is still a good band. The hypothesis would be that Van Halen is a good band because they have made good albums and are comprised of good musicians. Surprise! The truth is, it doesn’t matter how many good albums, how many hit singles a band has, and no matter how hard they try and reclaim their former glory, they can still monumentally suck! That is the ‘Hard Truth’. If you made it this far before berating me with endless neg’s and the most vile forms of hatred that you can conjure…this was a joke. I like Van Halen, I don’t really like this album, but you can do a hell of a lot worse in today’s musical world. If I want to jam to some Van Halen, I wouldn’t be putting this album on, but in all reality, I would probably give it a 3 or even 3.5 for effort. I just wanted my 20th review to be special and it was. Thank you Sputnik!