So everyone’s asking me, “Where the F is your review of the new Van Halen?” And I’m like, “I’m workin’ on it, man!” One reason it took a little bit is I wanted to catch up with Pete Thorn to get his comments on the tracks.
If you haven’t heard of him, Pete is an LA-based (originally from Canada) guitar-slinger who:
a) Is awesome – an awesome player with awesome ears for tone and is a nice guy too (here’s his Facebook page).
b) Massages the six-strings for Chris Cornell, Melissa Etheridge and others, and is about to go on tour with Melissa.
c) Has his first guitar album out called Guitar Nerd – when you hear it you’ll want to be a nerd too (more on it in a future post). Get it on CDBaby or iTunes.
d) Knows the VH boys, meaning the band.
Who better to add a few comments on A Different Kind of Truth? Can’t think of anyone. “Hear” goes….
WoodyTone: I gotta say I’m STOKED! Haven’t looked forward to an album this much since…the last Van Halen album.
Yes, I’m a huge fan of the band, but hey – let me put it this way: I have a good bud who’s in the music biz, and he’s following every rabbit hole to the past he can find, just hoping to run into some classic-era rock he somehow missed or forgot about. These are desperate times folks – but not anymore!
Thirteen tunes of new VH goodness, cake, frosting and all. Honestly took me until the third listen til I could get past what I wanted it to be/sound like, and accept it for what it is. And it’s great! Absolutely great – just like a new Zep record would be if Mr. Plant would ever get his head out of turkey-in-the-straw land….
I really dig A Different Kind of Truth’s inevitable bridge to the past, both Dave and Sammy eras, but man, they have a new sound! I’m assuming a big part of that is Wolfgang’s influence. More youthful, more modern, faster than the Sammy era. And heavier. Throw in Dave’s ability to sing over anything remotely musical, and here we are.
Comparisons to past VH are inevitable, and these guys have it tough: that’s a heck of musical legacy to live up to. But they f**king did it.
Pete: I love the record. It’s great. I think it’s a cool combo of new tunes and throwbacks to the past. They really successfully came up with an album that sounds modern and at the same time gives a sense of classic VH. They bridged the gap between the old tunes and being in 2012. It’s really fascinating.
I’m really over the moon for those guys – I’m happy they’re back and doing their thing, on top of their game.
WT: For some reason this tune sounds better to me without the video. Not big on the background keys, but hey, this tune marks the return of the mighty VH. It also in no way hints at what’s coming on the rest of the album. I wanted to get my head ripped off, with a groove, and I got it on the next tune.
One of my favorite parts of Tattoo is the huge “You’re No Good II”-type chords at the end….
PT: I think it was a smart first single choice, just in that it’s obviously a good mid-tempo rocker that’ll appeal to a wide variety of people. The interesting thing is once people heard the rest of the album, they were really surprised at how heavy it was. So I think it was a good first choice.
She’s The Woman
WT: YEAH! I get goose bumps every time I listen to this. Classic VH, a well-known “never made it on an album tune,” but who cares! Riff, groove, fills – what’s not to love here? Also love the new break that replaces the original that was used in “Mean Street.”
PT: Obviously that’s one of the old tunes, from the old Gene Simmons demos and whatnot. When I knew they were going to go back and revisit some of those tunes, I hadn’t listened to those old demos for a long time and I decided I wasn’t going to go back and listen to them. I wanted to listen with fresh ears like they’re brand new ideas.
I think this tune is great. I like the old version, but with the productions and Wolf’s influence it sounds so modern.
You and Your Blues
WT: Wow. This is truly new VH – doesn’t sound like the old Dave or Sammy eras – and…I dig it! Great tune. One of my favorites on the album.
PT: Definitely. It starts with that cool riff, sounds like maybe Sammy era. But once you hear that pre-chorus and insert Dave – there’s a little bit of everything in there to me. A little bit of really modern sound, little bit of ’80s and ’90s VH, then of course Dave pulls into the classic sound.
WT: This kinda reminds me of the original DLR Band – Steve and Billy going after it with double kick drums beating away in the background (did that happen or am I misremembering?). Kinda but not exactly. Love Ed’s masterful and I believe new use of the Floyd in the chorus.
If I had to say “in the style of,” I guess it’d be “Hot for Teacher” but not – not a boogie, not a blues riff. This is like “You and Your Blues:” brand spankin’ new. Also my 9-year-old son’s favorite tune on the album…maybe because he’s a drummer and loves Al….
PT: I think it’s awesome. To me it’s kind of the embodiment of the really modern. That one’s modern all the way to me. We’re hearing Ed do things he’s maybe not done that much before. It’s a different thing for him, the wah’s really prominent – I think it’s cool. I love how he uses the wah.
They played that one at the friends/family show [this week in L.A.]. It was really cool to see Ed and Wolf look at each other, like a ‘here goes nothing’ look on their faces, then they dove in and as they pulled off each section they’d look at each other and kind of laugh. It was great.
To see them play a new tune and nail it with that authority, it was really exciting. That’s truly new Van Halen. You can really hear Wolf’s influence on it too. He nailed it live. He’s really come into his own as a fantastic musician.
Blood and Fire
WT: This seems like a Sammy-era riff – major key, relatively undistorted geetar – that Dave’s singing over, and it sounds great. A softer tune is completely in character for a Dave-era album (e.g., “Secrets,” “Push Comes to Shove,” etc.). Fits right in.
PT: It reminds me a little bit of “Secrets” or a “Little Guitars” sort of feel. I love it – it’s actually one of my favorite songs on the album. The chorus is super strong, like a great summer rock song.
It sounds like classic VH to me. They’ve got a certain style – different sounds they do. There’s the “China Town” thing, blues rockers like “Ice Cream Man,” and this sort of style: uptempo, eighth note, sort of screams rock radio summertime. Frankly that’s been missing in rock, so it’s cool to hear it again.
The bass line reminds me of The Who on Real Me. Wolf’s tone is so fat he can go up and play in the upper register like Entwhistle. It’s wonderful and powerful.
WT: Pulled out of the VH vault, and no surprise: has a classic feel. It’s 2:32 of crack you over the head! What’s that on the lead – a wiggly chorus?
PT: It’s a straight-up kick you in the a** rock and roll tune. Love that it’s 2.5 minutes long. Makes you think maybe songs don’t need to be longer than that sometimes.
WT: HEAVY start. Whoa. Expected Dave to do that gnarly “Yeeah” he did on the beginning of “Fools” off Women and Children First. Then it’s the burritos and a shake riff, finally making it on a VH album.
This and other tunes on this album re-prove that Dave can sing over anything. Crazy break in the middle – love it man!
PT: This may be my favorite song on the record. Love how it goes through different changes. It starts crazy heavy, then gets ballistic after that, then there’s almost country-sounding middle breakdown part, then they bust into craziness at the end.
It takes you on a little ride, much in same way they used to do on songs like “House of Pain.” I love that songs because it goes through these crazy feel changes. That’s part of what I love about VH, that unpredictable “what’s going to happen next” thing.
In the context of rock and roll, they do some pretty unpredictable, progressive, fun stuff that’s distinctly them.
WT: More truly new VH – sort of “Loss of Control”-ish, but again not really. I’m hearing an MXR Blue Box-like octave down effect and a harmonizer over a minor-key riff that sounds very un-classic VH. Wait until you hear this frickin’ solo! Wow. I can’t believe this is VH!
PT: It’s more completely new Van Halen. You hear Ed using a sustainer and I believe some kind of whammy pedal, then it’s almost a Middle Eastern-like scale. It just adds up to, again, a crazy, weird, interesting journey.
The Trouble With Never
WT: Does EVH give a nod to Jimi here? Verse riff will make you think so, but it doesn’t matter if it sorta is or not. Great tune.
PT: I also think this one has Wolf’s influence. The riff is basically locked in with the bass, so this is their style together on this tune. The single-note riff doubled by the bass guitar – it’s a new thing for Van Halen, an interesting evolution of their sound.
It could be Hendrix-influenced, but it’s just bluesy.
WT: Another classic VH riff. It has that “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” you can’t slow Ed down urgency – which is F-ing great! Can’t stand sludge-slow power chord rock (like me)? This kinda stuff is better than 2 Aleves and flipping on the Boneyard….
PT: The lyrics are hilarious, and for sure it has a hyper pace.
WT: Immediately makes you think of “Ice Cream Man,” but an unfair comparison – this ain’t 1979 man. No doubt “Ice Cream” is a classic, especially that lead break, but I like this tune better. Has that VH feel-good feel. One of my favorite tunes on the album.
PT: I think it’s awesome. It’s that hyper-bluesy thing that they pioneered. I’m a big fan of it. Love “I’m the One” and “Hot for Teacher,” and “Stay Frosty” is similar. It’s cool to see them do that. That Dave style of acoustic with the band kicking in is cool. Glad they explored that.
[For some reason Pete and I both blanked on superlatives for this one – maybe we were getting tired. But when my son heard it he immediately said it reminded him of "Runnin' With the Devil." He's right!
I think the bottom line here is it's more Dave-era VH meets what I guess we'll call Wolf-era VH, with a little classic rock feel-goodness thrown in. It's good, man!]
WT: Great tune to end the album on – though I wish there were about 100 more tunes. Starts big, middle is vintage VH, and Ed feeds back and whammies out at the end.
Sounds garage band-ish (NOT the driggin’ video game!) in the best possible way…just a damn good band jamming with the Record button on.
PT: The way those guys record is pretty much live, that’s how they do it – just push Record and lay into it. The bass, guitars and drums in many instances is one take all the way through. That’s evident on a lot of these tunes, and is definitely evident on that one.
Most of the guitars we hear on the record are one take. Ed likes to play from top to bottom all the way through. That’s really unique. There aren’t many guys who do that – who can do that.
That’s always been amazing – he plays everything in one take, the solo included, and drops effects in and and out on the fly. That’s part of what we love about him.
The Bottom Line
Buy the CD, listen to it in order, beer in hand if that’s your thang, then run upstairs or downstairs or wherever your gear is and start figuring out some of these tunes – because you’ll be inspired to. Remember those days?
No disrespect to Al, Ed and Dave (or Mike), but I think Wolf really should get a TON of props here. He’s really kicked this band in the a**…yeesh, I feel sorta bad saying that because these guys are great: Van Halen’s worst day is 99% better than the best days of many bands…but you know what I mean.
I’ll end this with a quote from the same bud I reference up top, the one following the rabbit holes to find good tunes. He listened to the new VH and said, “Makes you think – why can’t anybody else make a good rock record these days….”
Don’t know man, but glad the might VH did it.
Many thanks to Pete for taking the time. Can’t wait to see VH live. And, of course, a huge thanks to Van Halen. Nice job fellas!
Sites That Link to this Post
- Pete Thorn on Van Halen’s Truth: “On top of their game” | Edmonton Journal | February 10, 2012