I’m a huge Van Halen fan. I don’t talk about them often, because let’s face it – aside from a borderline-disastrous reunion with Sammy Hagar in ’04, and a tour with Roth in ’07-’08, the band has been less active than the surviving guy from Milli Vanilli’s manager. In short, it’s been tough being a Van Halen fan these past 14 years (and I actually liked parts of Van Halen 3). I’ve already shared my thoughts on who I feel is the group’s best singer in the long run, as well as my opinion of Eddie Van Halen in the wake of shit-canning original bassist Michael Anthony in favor of his teenaged son.
But after over a decade of being jerked around, I’ll take what I can get; at this point, I’d still have been excited even if they brought Gary Cherone back. So if it means getting new music from these guys, I’ll deal with the awkward site of a 20-yr-old kid jamming with a bunch of dudes in their 50s, knowing that at least Chickenfoot is putting money in Michael Anthony’s pocket (he deserves it).
My biggest fear with a full-on Roth reunion (new album ‘n all), is that the band would regress back to the more one-dimensional, party rock vibe that they did nearly exclusively during the Roth era. I love all periods of the band, but they didn’t exactly grow that much with Roth at the helm – who always compensated for his so-so vocal range and limited lyrical abilities with his over-the-top persona and wild stage antics. I feared that, though Roth’s vocals remain in surprisingly good shape, anything “new” the band does with him would seem trite and lightweight compared to the leaps and bounds the band achieved with Hagar (though they only did four albums with him, no two sound identical). It should be noted, however, that a relatively modern, forward-thinking Van Halen with Roth did exist to some extent, in the two songs they cut for 1996’s Best Of Volume I release. (“Can’t Get This Stuff No More” was largely forgettable, but “Me Wise Magic” was a winner.) Despite Roth back at the mic, musically the songs still sounded like a natural progression from their previous album Balance.
And so after being shrouded in secrecy, Van Halen 4.0’s new album, A Different Kind of Truth, is suddenly right around the corner (Feb. 7), but so far, the two songs I’ve heard have done nothing to absolve my fears: