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VAN HALEN: IFFY DECISIONS THREATEN ‘TRUTH’ CAMPAIGN?

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Holy shit it is time to get super-pumped for new Van Halen music. That is for sure, fun lovers! Of course, it has been like thirteen years since their most recent album, so the music-makers of VH had some dust to shake off. No biggie. The more daunting task before Team Van Halen now is succeeding at their first album campaign since the upheaval of the record sales and of marketing practices.

Again, music is not the question, but rather how will these recording artists — once kings of presentation, promotions, and imagery during pop music’s last big shake-up, the MTV revolution — fare in the age of non-sales, lightning-fast rumors, and insidious internet marketing, and with the thud of Chinese Democracy still echoing and Aerosmith’s next winner looming ahead?

So far, the pre-natal life of A Different Kind Of Truth (out February 7 oh baby!!) is kinda wonky and marked by weird decisions and missed opportunities for coolness. Let’s take a friendly look:

  • Information gap = Crummy press In 2012, Van Halen is still a huge act followed by motivated fans. So in opting to cull new material from ancient outtakes — like “She’s The Woman,” “Bullethead,” and “Down In Flames” (which became “Tattoo”) — Eddie and crew cannot be accused of, like, trying to pull a fast one. That is, of course fans will notice and talk among ourselves about it. But that doesn’t mean Team Van Halen should refrain from actively owning up to it; failure to do so invites media to break stories that paint the old riff harvest as self-plagiarism and shenaniganism. That’s what is happening now (here and here and here). If asked, I would’ve begged Eddie to beat semi-informed newsies to the punch, cop to it, explain that album running times once were way shorter so tasty leftovers abound, and even state that these old jamz helped the band click with returned singer David Lee Roth after a two-decade separation.
  • Opening act = Kool & The Gang :( David Lee Roth has got soul. So do Van Halen fans. He loves to dance and party, make sex and smoke doobs. So do Van Halen fans. And fans can probably agree that Kool & The Gang is a good time. But it’s hard to love this move. I mean, Van Halen made its name as a new act by destroying flabby headliners in the late ’70s. Black Sabbath? Embarrassed. Journey? Annihilated. So for VH to kinda fluff their gig with a soft-edged dance band is a double squandering and maybe a bit hypocritical: It would’ve been great karma for VH to pitch in and push some hard-working, fiery studs (The Last Vegas! Crazy Lixx! Crashdiet! Gentlemans Pistols! Steel Panther even!) and big motivation to the rich old rockers to play big lest they suffer the very same nightly upsets that they once handed the big acts. Concertgoers would get VH’s A-game and there would be no perception that the band is disregarding the all-important next generation of younger, wilder fans who show up all hammered and ready to rock, not to tap toes to Dad’s AM radio favorites.
  • Album cover = The Commodores? Van Halen’s upcoming album is titled A Different Kind Of Truth. If its cover art (above) is any indication, it could be named The Same Kind Of Truth As The Commodores’ Movin’ On Record (here).
  • “Tattoo” video = Might as well jump! A realist might not expect VH at age 35 (1,000 years old in band time) to rage hard and rock wildly. And the band’s first offering from A Different Kind Of Truth, “Tattoo,” is good despite its hedgy vanillaness. But, dude, the video is a bummer: It has about the same budget as simple, low-cost classics like “Unchained” and “Jump,” but it’s only as enjoyable and considered as my 1984 bedroom video for “I’ll Wait,” in which I impatiently stare at my watch while flipping through an issue of Vogue. C’monnn. This generation’s shared identity is mostly based on classic VH videos! Don’t short the next ones!

-ADF

Van Halen’s 12th studio album A Different Kind Of Truth is out February 7. Tour dates here. Oh also, I seek audio of the video edit of “Jump” — please internet me @AnsoDF if you know? 

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