I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. My favorite band ever has reunited and made their first album together in 28 years, an album I’ve anticipated and feared in nearly equal measure for as long as I can remember. Anticipated, because it seems such a massive cosmic injustice that the band that so effortlessly fused Big Loud Rock with Disco Dance Party has spent the last three decades pointing fingers at each other, talking smack, and (worst of all) making bad records. I’ve missed this band’s signature sound for my entire adult life, in no small part because even after all these years it remains sui generis, a totally unique sound that no other act has ever come near duplicating. Feared, because over the course of those three decades everyone involved has been diligently submitting proof that they’ve all forgotten how to do anything but suck.
Everybody loves original Van Halen. When you ask them (or at least, when I ask them), people invariably say, “I love original Van Halen, with David Lee Roth — Van Hagar, not really.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “I don’t like Van Halen,” and I don’t think I have ever known anyone who preferred the Hagar era to the Roth era (though the Internet certainly tells a different story). I loved Roth-era Van Halen so much, I talked myself into the first two Sammy records just so I wouldn’t have to let go. But even I never listened to Balance (the last record with Hagar) or Van Halen III (the one with Gary Cherone).
When they finally got back with Diamond Dave in 2007 and toured, I and quite a few of my friends went to see them to the tune of $150 a ticket. I can think of no better illustration of the early MTV generation’s enduring love toward this band with this singer. Yet, oddly, my informal polling reveals that in the two weeks since Van Halen released A Different Kind of Truth, their first record with David Lee Roth since 1984, exactly nobody I know has listened to it. I say oddly because quite unlike the early ’80s, it is possible to listen to most new albums (this one included) for free on Spotify or whatever. I have been listening to this thing a lot for the last two weeks and I want to talk to someone about it, but I can’t because no one has heard it and apparently doesn’t care to.
I can understand that: as much goodwill as the original band still enjoys (strangely, considering how little goodwill they had for each other), they did so, so, so much to wreck it in the last 15 years. First, under the expert tutelage of Sammy Hagar, they learned how to suck. They put out a few bad records. Their performances became erratic. And then they went on a Nixonesque firing spree, terminating Sammy Hagar, David Lee Roth, and Gary Cherone in a three-year period, and then firing Sammy Hagar again after a disastrous reunion tour a few years after that. They became the worst thing a rock band can be: they became a joke. Read More