Return of the Atomic Punks

I’ve been waiting for this for 28 years.
A Different Kind of Truth, Van Halen’s new album, is a triumphant return to form. It kills it on the spot, all at once, in a very “Hey, I heard you missed us, we’re back!” kind of way.
In fact, the album sounds like it was released in 1980, if only in a slightly more polished way. In an alternate universe where David Lee Roth never left the band and Eddie Van Halen never fired up a keyboard, A Different Kind of Truth could have been sides three and four of Women and Children First, if that classic were a double album.
Yeah, it’s that good people. Time to rejoice.
Why is it so good? About half of the songs have been around since the midseventies—six of the album’s 13 tracks have existed in some form or another since before Van Halen’s debut, Van Halen, was released in 1978. It’s what we’ve been waiting for since 1984.
And it gets better:
No Keyboards. No Power Ballads. No Bullshit.
Thank God.
And make no mistake, Eddie Van Halen is in astonishing, classic form here. It’s as if the 90s never happened. He has rediscovered his love, and complete bad-ass mastery, of the electric guitar. Eddie demolishes every song, even the clunkers, having lost none of his singular rhythmic sense, nuclear fission pyrotechnics or unmatched solo prowess. Still chasing tones.
Shit, what a genius.
Of course, we still miss Michael Anthony. His fat-bottom bass and high-harmony vocals were defining elements of the classic Van Halen sound. But let’s give his replacement, Eddie’s son Wolfgang, the props he deserves here—he holds up his end, replicates Anthony’s signature low-end dive bomb, and mainly stays out of the way for his dear old dad to rip it up and blow the lid off the sucker.
Alex Van Halen has not lost a beat, transporting himself back to the Van Halen II sessions. He’s always been an absolute beast behind the kit, and his performances are tight, bombastic firestarters. He remains one of the greatest rock drummers of all time. You can ask Dave Grohl.
And then there’s David Lee Roth. He may have lost a few of the high notes, but he’s right there in the spirit of reviving the old sound, and offers enough classic Diamond Dave shtick to keep it fun and slightly surreal. And hey, let’s not kid ourselves here—that’s exactly what makes him one of the great rock showmen, and was a sorely missed component of the Sammy Hagar years.
As for the tracks, there are a few throwaways, but it’s a small price to pay for an album of new Van Halen music with Eddie and Alex in top form and David Lee Roth back in the band. So why complain now?
And so, a song-by-song breakdown:
The weakest song on the album. Why is this the first single and lead-off track? Who cares—proceed to track two.
“She’s the Woman”
Why does this riff sound so classic? Because it dates from 1976. Good call, gentlemen.
“You and Your Blues”
Skip it.
“China Town”
What the hell is Eddie doing on the intro? Not since the opening of “Mean Streets” has Ed sounded so mod and classic at the same time. Brother Alex revises his “Hot for Teacher” drum pattern, and we get Ed’s first breathtaking solo of the album, of which there are many. Don’t miss the coda, where father and son lock heads in a killer cross-pollinated riff-fest.
“Blood and Fire”
A good mid-tempo rocker with a vintage Halen groove to it. Nice.
Absolute hyper-driven road rage. Alex nods to Dave Grohl, and Ed nods to himself. Roth all of a sudden remembers what made Fair Warning such a great album.
“As Is”
You are now in the middle of the album’s sweet spot. A totally ripping, utterly ridiculous riff by Ed, with a blazing rhythm track. Check the super heavy-duty mid-song meltdown—a pure bad-ass power struggle going on here, folks.
Whoa, look out for this one. Eddie destroys the rhythm pattern, rocking fast and furious throughout. And that intro lick? Righteous. I would put this one on repeat if I were you. Right now.
“The Trouble with Never”
A killer, fat, groovy riff. Nice middle-eight with some super over the top Roth shtick. Ed wipes the studio floor with some sweeping, deep soul wah-wah.
“Outta Space”
Hyperkinetic atomic punk in the old Halen way. Alex in sinister form and Ed shreds yet another one. Sick.
“Stay Frosty”
Classic Van Halen: a bluesy rocker with an acoustic intro, a midsection with some wacky Rothisms, and an absolutely bone crushing, fiercely phrased solo by the man with the guitar.
“Big River”
Sounds like 1978, in a great, big way.
“Beats Workin’”
It’s 1976, and everyone is getting loaded at a Pasadena club. Wolfgang rocks a sweet melodic bass run as the band drops out. Well done, young man. Oh yeah, Ed annihilates another solo. Fuck me.
That’s 50 minutes of old-school Van Halen music, people.
Welcome back boys, it’s been way too long. Oh, and thanks for releasing this one on my birthday—what a great gift.
See you at the Garden.
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6 Responses to Return of the Atomic Punks

  1. Joe Popp says:

    Ready to See VH with you man!!!

  2. bea says:

    have yet to get into the album,but looking forward to it

    the return of some are often better left alone, and some make you wonder why the stupid bastards exploded in the first place ,then decide to put some pieces back together and try again?

    rock history tells us that we have had awful experiments,others,great successes

    van halen sounds like a great one.

    is it available in vinyl? (might blow your mind)

    keep on rock’n

  3. big says:

    that was BIG not bea !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. big says:

    my comment was lost

    will be back later

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