I have never doubted the skill and capable hands of Edward Van Halen so I never felt that A Different Kind of Truth would somehow need to prove that he still had it. The man has dealt with some personal issues over the years which have led to a void in creativity that is finally being filled again. But Eddie hasn’t lost his touch. (Nor for that matter has brother Alex, on the drums.)
There’s just not a whole lot of melody to be found on the album. Or good singing. Or lyrics.
Admittedly, I lean more towards the Sammy Hagar-led incarnation of Van Halen. However, there isn’t anything here that even reminds us of the genius of Roth-era songs like “Dance the Night Away,” “Runnin’ With the Devil” or “Jamie’s Crying.” There’s barely a breather in what is essentially a collection of fast rockers. I know that macho fans will claim this is all they ever wanted, but it doesn’t make for quality album sequencing and isn’t exactly true to the band’s roots.
Additionally, David Lee Roth’s singing ability, never top level to begin with, has slipped a few notches and his once-charmingly-flip lyric-writing now seems trite and desperate. (That’s when you can even decipher what he is singing.) What once made Van Halen rise above their piers was how well they could shift from pile-driving riffs to choruses filled with soaring melodies. As crude as “Hot for Teacher” once was, you could respect the edginess for that era and appreciate the musical shifts they took with that song. It was much a departure from “Panama” as “Jump” was, and all three were on the same album! Here, the songs all tend to blend into each other and lack much distinction, and a lot of that is because of the limitations of the vocals on the album.
“Blood and Fire” is probably the most Van Halen-esque of the songs but every time it seems to gain the right footing, it veers off again. The first single “Tattoo” probably has the second most interesting musical shifts, but the lyrics are such utter drivel and the chorus ear-splitting, that you can’t help but skip past it. I give credit to what they’re trying to do with “Stay Frosty” by opening it up acoustically, but Roth is just so remarkably insufferable, it derails the song completely.
A Different Kind of Truth seems to be getting varied reception as some critics loathe it, some dig it, and from what I’ve seen, a lot of fans are smitten with it. Ultimately, I don’t think the goal of the album was to make me want to go home and pull out 1984 and 5150. But that’s what I did and once again, I remembered what made Van Halen so great.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆