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They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rocking like it's 1986 ... sorta

I can't believe that today I listened to a new Van Halen album.

Even harder to believe is that the album -- "A Different Kind of Truth" -- features the unmistakeable David Lee Roth on lead vocals.

Sure, VH hadn't put out a new studio album since 1998's "Van Halen III," the band's lone outing with then former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone. So a new album with anyone -- Cherone, former frontman Sammy Hagar or once-asked-to-sing-for-the-group Scandal siren Patty Smyth -- would have been a serious event for rock fans.

But Diamond Dave back? That is BIG.

Of course, if you're a fan and you've been following the VH news, you've already heard lead single "Tattoo" and seen this video:

"A Different Kind of Truth" dropped today. While I write this, I'm on my second spin through the disc. (No, I didn't run out and buy it. Instead, I've chosen to spend some time with it via streaming service MOG before plunking down the coin for it.)

While not one of my favorite groups anymore, Van Halen was my first. I fell in love with the band sometime around the beginning of the '90s. When 1991's "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge," came out, I lived and breathed it. My first concert was seeing Van Halen (and opener Alice in Chains, whom I then despised but would come to dig) at the beginning of the "Carnal" tour (notice how I'm not using the acronym?). Seeing your favorite band playing the songs you love right in front of you for the first time is really something. What a memory.

Truth be told, I've always been more of a Sammy guy than a Dave guy, which is about as cool as saying you prefer Windows to Mac or going to bed early to sleeping in late. (Guilty on all accounts.). But, hey, Roth-led Halen had some righteous tunes -- "Jump," "Panama," "Little Guitars," "Girl Gone Bad" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," to name just a few of my faves. And I spent the dough to see the Roth reunion tour a few years ago ag Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

The last VH album with Roth was "1984," released early that year. So the album that should have gotten in 1986 (we got the Hagar-powered "5150" instead) we get now. Only Roth is covering up his male pattern baldness and longtime bassist Michael Anthony has been replaced by guitarist Eddie Van Halen's son, Wolfgang. (Eddie's talented brother, Alex, is still around beating the hell out of his drum kit, as always.)

My initial reactions to the album are what I expected them to be. These aren't terrifically written tunes; they don't feel like they came together easily and organically. And Roth still leaves a lot to be desired as a pure singer. (His value is, of course, as an attention-grabbing frontman.) But it's great to here Eddie on the guitar and Alex on the drums. Through it all -- the good, bad, ugly and mediocre -- the two of them and that sound have been there.

So the 2012 version of Van Halen may indeed be a different kind of truth and, ultimately, a less compelling one. But it's still the truth.

-- Mark Meszoros | | @nhfeatures

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