Let’s get right to it. I think we can all agree that lead-off single “Tattoo” is a shitty song. And any album that has the opening lyrics of I've got Elvis on my elbow would have any sane, reasonable consumer checking online for iTunes refund policies.* But this is David Lee Roth we're talking about. The man can get away with more than most mammals. That's right folks, he's back with the Van Halen boys and at times it really does sound like he never left.
I'll save you the back story of why it took Roth and the Van Halens so long to work together again – the reasons are legion and available in every source of media (I recommend the audiobook The Van Halen Saga as read by Christopher Lee**), suffice to say this is a reunion that really has had the odds stacked against it. Between Roth's buffoonery that the rest of the band had always seemed to barely tolerate, to accusations of everything from rampant alcoholism, drug abuse and mental illness plaguing the Van Halen brothers, it's been a long, strange trip indeed.
Answers to some quick questions you have in your head:
1. Yes, this is a good album that is well worth your hard-earned sheckles.
2. Roth's voice is good, but at times hitting the higher registers, he kind of yelps like a terrier with one of those shock-collars on.
3. Yes, it's Eddie's son Wolfgang on bass and not Michael Anthony. (side note: This poor bastard (Anthony) has been seemingly bent over by the VH brothers more than anyone has a right to. The fact that they have used his voice on live backing tapes and who unless my ears deceive me has had his backing vocals left intact on newish tracks “She's The Woman” and “Big River”without receiving a dime is just not cool.*** Not to mention the whole Eddie Van Halen “I need a bassist I can control so bad, I will take my teenage son out of school and teach him bass so I never have to look at your free-thinking ass again” thing)****.
4. Yes, it's better than Van Halen III (side note: I would like to state for the record that fault for the failure of this album was not due to Gary Cherone, who it is true, was not suited for the band, but the true fault lay at the feet of the Van Halen brothers, who had complete and total control over the band and the songwriting at this point and wouldn't let Cherone take a dump without their say-so. The songwriting was sub-par to say the least – creating an album of the least memorable tracks in the band's history.
For those with a timeline fetish, A Different Kind of Truth is the band's first album of new material in 13 years, and the band's first with Roth in 28 years. That's roughly 27 years since you've been hearing “Panama” at your favorite sporting event.
Tattoo is indeed the lead track on the album, but the real start of the album is the next track – “She's The Woman.” Now, much has been talked about how this and a handful of other songs were actually written/recorded by the band in the early days, but let's be real – you have someone over that you haven't seen in over 20 years, you talk about your current lives for exactly 20 minutes before the rest of the night is 'Hey, remember when we did _________?”. My point being, if they want to dust off some old demos to get back in the swing of things after half a century, who are we to judge? Yes, I know they were together in '96 for the extra tracks on the compilation and again in '00. '07 and '08 saw a reunion as well, but this was mostly for touring purposes only and there was little to no songwriting during this period.
But, we come full circle, and for whatever the reason, the rockstars have now aligned and we have a new Van Halen album. The songs are there – the hooks are there – the solos are all there. I think because it's been so long, people have forgotten what a pioneer Eddie Van Halen was. The finger tapping, the power chords, the other fancy stuff I don't know the terms for because I'm only a (shitty) drummer – a lot of these things really didn't exist before he hammered them out on his Kramer.
Yes, pioneering is all well and good, but there's many pitfalls to avoid on the road to Nostalgia-town. Thankfully, With ADKOT, Eddie has managed to sound not only relevant, but fresh. There's an entire generation of kids that have been hearing their parents blather on about this awesome guitarist but they've never really heard them. That's my biggest worry with “Tattoo” as the lead-off single. I can't imagine that song will get anyone's know-it-all kids to pay attention, but tracks like “Honeybabysweetiedoll” or “Outta Space” should get 'em to prick up their ears. The only other weak spot on the album can be attributed to “Stay Frosty”, an “Ice Cream Man” redux of sorts that's embarrassingly uninspired. Those criticisms aside, this is a strong album. There's no ballads to speak of (one of the main points of contention with the Hagar-led era) – just balls out rock. Let's just hope they keep Roth around this time. Or at least until Alex's kid takes those singing lessons.
* I'll save you some time. They don't have any.
** This does not actually exist.
*** This is unconfirmed. I'm working off a promo with no liner notes or credits.
**** I'm paraphrasing.