February 7, 2012 has long time Van Halen fans crazed with
anticipation. The media blitz that has been unleashed this month is
unparalleled in VH history. There are no arguments as to who was the
better lead singer anymore, just whether the material matches up to
days gone by. The banter over many of the songs being “old”
unreleased work that has been revamped and whether it actually
qualifies as “new” rages on throughout the net and various media
outlets. We VH fans are a finicky bunch.
Photo from Reuters
Having been an unabashed fan since “Dance the Night Away” ruled AM
radio, my anticipation for any release of material with David Lee Roth
and Edward Van Halen together has been nothing short of agonizing.
Possessing various bootlegs, from their demo produced by Gene Simmons
to a live show in Pasadena just when they got signed, I have heard
many of the original incantations of the songs that appear on the new
release A Different Kind of Truth. Personally I have no problem with
the new versions of old material. I also do not expect the VH 4.0
version to be like the 1.0 version. These guys are in their late 50’s
(of course except for Eddie’s son Wolfie who replaced Michael Anthony
on bass) and have gone through being at the top of the world, breaking
up, kids, divorces, lawsuits, rehab, etc., etc., not to mention the
invention of the internet and the technology boom that happened
between as well Anyone familiar with song writing knows everything
effects where you are at when you finally release a polished tune to
the masses. I want that old VH feel with a new VH twang. The boys
have not disappointed me.
“Tattoo” was the first release with an interesting Lo-Fi video that
even though based on a 1977 song “Down in Flames” is reminiscent of
1984 material; video included. The song is catchy and the lyrics are
back to beyond surface value (Hagar was notorious for base level
lyrical skill). In short, I dig it, but I am not blown away. But, I
never expected to be. Van Halen singles were never what I really got
off on. They were always a very heavy rock band with pop sensibility,
but they also churned out some intense material that was blues, punk,
metal, country influenced and made anything they touched their own.
So, when a preview of the song “Stay Frosty” hit the net and was heard
on an episode of CSI, my heart skipped a beat. Dave and Ed were truly
back with tricks up their sleeves. Many will point to the track being
very similar to an “Ice Cream Man” kind of feel. For myself, I
believe it harkens back to Women and Children First material (my
second fave behind Fair Warning).
A few other tunes have leaked in various ways as well. If you caught
any of the Café Wha? show on YouTube, then you may have heard “She’s
the Woman” which is largely the same arrangement as the original.
Also, “Blood and Fire” which according to the Van Halen News Desk
(www.vhnd.com) is a track that was in the sequel to “Fast Times at
Ridgemont High” called “The Wild Life”. The instrumental track now
has vocals and seems to harken back to some of the leftovers between
Fair Warning and Diver Down. But, today, VH released the best yet,
“Chinatown”. You want some? Well, you got some now…and then some.
This tune is blistering and everything I love about the Mighy Van
Halen. Blown away and beyond words, this song has no known history
amongst the most knowledgable fanatics, and thus is assumed to be baby
butt brand spankin’ new.
I do not expect the media blitz to slow down anytime soon. The tour
comes through Pittsburgh at The Consol on March 30. If anything like
the shows I witnessed in Pittsburgh and Cleveland on the reunion tour
in 2009 we Van Halenites are in for a once in a lifetime visual and
auditory assault. It seems DLR is back at the helm of media direction
along with the help of Eddie’s wife Janie Van Halen and we are all
richer for it.
Wolfie will keep them grounded with playing the old tunes that matter
to us most (thank you for “Romeo Delight” and “Atomic Punk” back in
the set) smattered with some new material. Maybe if they are in a
playful mood we may even be treated to some off the cuff cover songs
which Van Halen does better than anyone.
In my forties and at the general median age of those excited for the
CD and tour, we may have to prepare for what will be in ‘front of our
naked steaming eyes’ with a complete physical. Well, “somebody get me
a doctor, somebody get me a shot”.
Steelesque will be reviewing the entire release of “A Different Kind
of Truth” in February and provide front row coverage of the Pittsburgh
show in March.
– Alan Welding