Van Halen’s new CD is obviously a conscious effort to channel the sound of the band’s early, classic hard rock records, and while this material is new to us, it’s apparently not all new—reportedly many of the tracks here are based on old riffs and unused songs, including material from their original 1976 demo!
Roth is in fine form vocally here, and Eddie Van Halen brings it on guitar, although his once-groundbreaking tapping style is hardly novel anymore—especially since virtually every hard rock guitarist in his wake does it to some extent. The big change-up in this lineup is the addition of Eddie’s son Wolfgang as VH’s new bass player. “Wolfie” comes through very well, asserting himself with some muscular bass lines that cut through the mix nicely on tracks like “She’s the Woman.”
The bypassing of original bassist Michael Anthony? Not cool, and they can hardly call this a “reunion,” but the classic sound is here. Ultimately, the pleasure of this album is hearing VH cooking again, and it’s nice they did something after years of will-they-or-won’t-they drama. Material-wise, it’s all catchy, radio-friendly, and instantly forgettable.
The single “Tattoo” will have you singing along while it’s on, but you’ll be hard-pressed to remember it when it’s done. Other tracks harken back to classic VH—two songs find Alex Van Halen channeling his double-time drumming from 1984‘s “Hot for Teacher”—so if you can use a nice VH flashback, here it is. The sound is good but not spectacular—just a straightforward presentation of the band doing what it does with little studio ornamentation or tinkering in evidence. “A Different Kind of Truth“? Really? Sounds like the same old truth to these ears.