Eddie Van Halen is on fire, but where are the songs?
There’s a lot that’s good, and good-natured about A Different Kind Of Truth (** 1/2), the first album the still combustibly carefree sounding rock quartet that bears the name of Van Halen (as well as his drummer brother Alex and bassist son Wolfgang) has recorded with David Lee Roth in 27 years.
For one thing, there’s Roth, who, reunited with the band for a tour in 2007 and will join the VH family for a much-anticipated jaunt that will bring them to Philadelphia and Atlantic City in March.
The 56 year old professionally charming cad has lost much of his vocal range. But he still knows how to have a good time, whether offhandly noting in “The Trouble With Never” that “selective amnesia is only a heartbeat away” or delighting in the philosophical ponderings of the turbo-charged talking blues “Stay Frosty.“ Roth’s self-mocking flamboyance qualifies him as one of rock’s great showmen, and when that’s coupled with the dazzling dexterity of Eddie’s lightning runs and a thunderous rhythm section, you’re back behind the wheel of that Camaro you drove in 1985 with a beer between your legs.
The trouble is that even though many of the songs are reworked versions of 1970s demos - or maybe because of that - with few notable exceptions like “Blood and Fire,” they’re largely lacking in the melodic pizzazz that turned VH into such a hit machine in their heyday. A Different Kind Of Truth is completely respectable effort that avoids nearly all of the pitfalls typical of decades-in-the-making reunions, but short of songs that can stand up to “Hot For Teacher.”
Below, Different's first single, "Tattoo."