You know, I really want to like this album. I was not a fan of the Van Hagar years and, not being much of a rock fan in general, it was even a stretch that I ended up liking a lot of the early Van Halen recordings. One thing I really liked was how their arrangements had dynamics to then. Eddie Van Halen could assault the ears with his guitar, but back it way off at just the right times. The first Van Halen album is a gem for that reason–it had some great sound to it, and some kick-ass tunes.
But fast-forward to 2012, and things are not the same.
The huge flaw of A Different Kind Of Truth is the sound quality. Or lack thereof. To say it is horrible, an utter travesty, and absolutely putrid is total understatement. Yes, Van Halen was always an assault on the ears, but their music always had dynamics. On this album, the sound is so overly compressed that it fatigues you after only a couple of songs. The vinyl version has a little more breathing room, but not much. It is more like an onslaught than a recording. Everything is slammed and in your face. Sadly, this is how all modern albums are recorded in the pop/rock world.
To put it another way, put on the DCC vinyl (or CD…or even the cheap stock Warner CD) of the first album and crank it up. It was loud, but it gripped you, and you felt the music. You can’t even turn this one up, it’s that bad. It’s like a halfway decent Van Halen album as channeled through Pat Metheny’s Zero Tolerance for Silence and processed through eighteen daisy-chained dbx encoders connected in series. Then, smashed and brick-walled for good measure. The vinyl version fares only slightly better; I still haven’t decided if it is worth paying double or more for it. Like the old saying goes: you can’t polish a turd.
This is a shame, since I like some of the songs on this new album. The lead-off single “Tattoo” grows on you after awhile, an infectious tune about the life-changing powers of a tattoo. And the other songs are the usual David Lee Roth/Van Halen tales of women, cars, women and rock and roll. So musically, it’s a good reunion of David Lee Roth with the Van Halens. Some might argue that they miss Michael Anthony, but Eddie’s son Wolfgang does a fine job on the bass. Diamond Dave and Eddie always tended to bounce off and contrast each other, but it is really a strain to enjoy it when the sound is forced at you like it is on this recording.
I would recommend this album more highly if it weren’t for the sound quality. As such, pick it up for the music, but expect to be disappointed by the sonics. It is fatiguing at best.