Tattoo, tattoo? What is this noise?
That was my initial reaction to hearing the single released ahead of Van Halen’s new release, A Different Kind of Truth.
The chorus was goofy, the riff so-so, and for a song I had been waiting to hear since 1984, two years before I was born, it just felt underwhelming.
Then I got the album. Listening through it two or three times, I find my initial reaction waning. The chorus may still be goofy, but it has the playfulness I expect from a Roth-fronted Van Halen.
The riff isn’t “Mean Streets”, but that doesn’t stop it from being lodged in my head as I write this, and the solo is a welcome return to form for Eddie.
Maybe there’s a sort of paradox for the “classic rock” sect; you need to hear a song three or four times before you come around to it just to get over the fact that it’s not “the old stuff.”
I find that nostalgia, to paraphrase Rick James, is a hell of a drug. Mediocre songs sound great, shallow pop songs become worthy of turning up, and new music always sounds worse because “the old stuff” is what you can sing every word to and associate with memories of (at least in hindsight) good times.
That’s why I found the first trip through A Different Kind of Truth a little underwhelming. Where was another “Panama”? Or even a “Little Dreamer”?
But you don’t need another “Panama.” Instead, I find myself singing “sexy dragon magic” to myself and playing through the riff to “Tattoo” in my head. I seek out “She’s the Woman” so I can learn the verses, not just the titular chorus, and God damn it, I appreciate “Stay Frosty” as a sort of “sequel” to “Ice Cream Man”, partly because they’re no longer strange new songs that “just aren’t the same,” they’re part of the Van Halen family.
Objective grade: B+
Fan who has a “VNHALN” license plate grade: A
PS. I think they could’ve used a cover on there, too. It just seems like a Roth-era Van Halen tradition :p