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Van Halen

A Different Kind of Truth

Proving that their 2007/08 reunion tour with David Lee Roth wasn't entirely a money-grubbing fluke, Van Halen have returned with their first new album since 1998, and their first with Roth since 1984. Perhaps succumbing to the pressure to try to recapture the formula of their glory days, Roth and Eddie Van Halen plumbed the vaults for various demos, b-sides, and other unused scraps to form the basis of at least several songs here (including lead single "Tattoo," which is a reworking of a late-'70s tune called "Down In Flames"). Other tracks sound a little all-too-familiar as well, such as "She's the Woman" (a re-recorded demo from 1976), and "Stay Frosty," which appears to be a tongue-in-cheek rewrite of "Ice Cream Man," from their 1978 debut. With this method, the band recaptures their past by literally doing just that, but it also feels like they're cheating a bit, by releasing old - albeit unreleased and revamped - material, and passing it off as new (when introducing "She's the Woman" at an intimate club gig last month, Roth called it a "brand new song"). Also of note is the glaring absence of bassist and founding member Michael Anthony, who was quietly booted from the group in favor of Eddie's son, Wolfgang. Wolfgang is a more than capable musician, occasionally displaying the same technical flare as his guitar wizard dad, but Anthony's underrated backing vocals were an essential - and apparently irreplaceable - component of the band's original sound.


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