Will Preston

A haircut and a crystal meth habit later…

by on Feb.12, 2012, under Albums, Music, Review

Hair metal is the most laughed at genre in music history. Even skiffle has maintained more dignity. Whilst it’s always argued which band started what, Van Halen were often credited as the forefathers of hair metal craze. Bringing to light one of the most influential guitarists who could ever abuse his fingers, the band are an icon for frantic rock solos, athletic stage presence and enough spandex to gift wrap a whale.

Nothing says old like wearing sunglasses indoors

But 6 years into their fame, they reached their peak and demise with golden haired David lee Roth leaving the group, only to be replaced with red-obsessed rocker Sammy Hagar. Van Halen slowly descended into sounding less like the band that started it, to sounding more like the bands that copied them. The 1998 album Van Halen III was the final straw. Not even Extreme’s Gary Cherone could save the band from itself.

Like a carrot on a string to a donkey, fans were led in false hope as constant rumours of reforming with Roth filled the circles. Despite a few fleeting appearances of the Hagar line up together with the eventual exile of Michael Antony, there was still hope for the golden days of the early 80’s to return. When Diamond Dave cut off his thinning hair and Eddie’s teenage son stepped into the 4 string role, this same hope was still strong.

Back in the day

Last month saw the release of the band’s new single Tattoo, a rumoured rehash of a previously unreleased song from the bands prehistoric days. First impressions of the song was the same as any other group from 30 years ago: they’re long passed it. After the appallingly dull Final Frontier by Iron Maiden and Gun N’ Roses long overdue Chinese Democracy, nobody was really expecting another MTV-era group to pull it out the bag after storing it away for so long. The new album, A Different Kind of Truth, would need to be an effective apology for the last 2 decades.

The video didn’t help that much either. Eddie is looking just about healthy after a long bout with crystal meth, Alex Van Halen resembles the ghost of drumming future, David still clings to his cool rather well, and Wolfgang Van Halen seems overwhelmed to be there. No jumping. No crazy poses. The band is showing it’s age and making the lesson about growing old taste bitter. But the song slowly grows, providing you just listen and don’t watch. It’s a steady beat number with everything in the right place. Dave’s lyrics still feel as abstract as ever, but you slowly decrypt his nonsense behind it.

Without warning A Different Kind of Truth reaches back into it’s glory days like the last 30 years never happened. Suddenly, the hard rock sound of Fair Warning and Van Halen I jump out. She’s The Woman, You And Your Blues, and China Town provide the soundtrack to what must be retro tour of the bands early days. But one small problem lies. Once you get to the chorus of You And Your Blues, the vocal harmony reminds you of the angelic voice the band had. They almost have that, but without Anthony screaming his ultra high tones against the rest of the band, the chorus loses a vocal range that makes you feel like someone is still being missed.

Flat caps and dungarees for the older gentleman

As soon as Bullethead thunders in, this thought goes away and the bands range to break into a full fast force. From here on, the rest of the album continues its flawless routine of reuniting the bad long lost sound. Even the weirdness of some of the lesser known album tracks are relived. Towards the end of the album, the 1978 blues cover of Ice Cream Man gets its 2012 counterpart with Stay Frosty. Starting with a stripped down blues progression, the song explodes into an electrically charged rock anthem with blues beat still intact. You could almost say that this track is the band signing its name to win back your trust.

So after 10 years of water down Bon Jovi-esque pop number, with another 15 or so years of near obscurity, why have they waited for so long to bring the A material out at the end game? Has their punishment of fading away and growing old been the long overdue kick up the arse? Whatever it was, it’s a miracle. Van Halen are back.

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2 Comments for this entry

  • Sue Preston

    I am SO pleased you like this album, Will. You are, to me, the Atomic Punk himself and to hear your positive comments (so eloquently expressed) warm my heart tremendously.

    As you know, I have followed VH since the early 80’s and have hummed and ha’d over their change of clientele (I’m an avid DLR fan). I felt really awkward for Gary Cherone when he appeared on VH111, as he was SO happy to be part of this awesome band. I understand the first person he told, when he joined, was his mother! I valiantly found a lot of positives from this album, but had to admit, it was a bit cringing.

    I’ve never been an Hagar fan (although he’s FANTASTIC in Chickenfoot) as I really wanted DLR back in the Line Up. My cup runneth’d over when it was announced Diamond Dave had returned. Unlike you, I immediately took to “Tattoo”, although Planet Rock did hint that this was not the best track. Boy, were they right!

    It’s almost 30 years since I last saw VH – maybe I should grab my stick and go and hunt ’em down….

  • cdreid

    Just… stop. It’s like you skimmed a few VH sites and tossed the randomness in and then tried the hollywood “be snooty, insulting and dismissive as possible”.

    Re “hair metal” still around homie. The rhythms melodies and especially guitar riffs are in everything from country to hip hop. Hip hop took the “over the top party lifestyle” thing from hair metal and turned it up to ten.

    These are amazingly talented people. Living legends living under the glare of hack gossip writers like yourself. Theyre going to flame, burn, freeze, ressurrect.”

    Hope someday that you have 1% of the literary talent that VH, Bon Jovi, Scorpions, Leppart etc etc have in their music.

    also: no intentional insult but you need a different picture up. This one looks like “douche nobody trying to look like somebody”. Try a candid pic. Smiling. It will work better. The rest of the site is very well designed.

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