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"This record, for me, it's the best thing since Fair Warning," he says. "[First single] 'Tattoo' is the only misstep. You wait 28 years to hear Van Halen, and in the context of the record, it's not the best song by far. Off the top of my head, I'm thinkin' of 'China Town,' if that was the first thing you heard, or 'As Is,' or 'Honeybabysweetiedoll.' Any of those three? People would've been like, 'Are you fucking kidding me?' "

Hagar claims not to have heard the entire album. "I don't listen to much new music unless I hear a new song on the radio, and the last bands that did that to me were the Black Keys and Kings of Leon. When I heard 'Tattoo,' that single — and I saw the video because everybody kept sending it to me like, 'My god, have you seen this?' . . . 'Oh my god, you must be laughing your ass off!'— it wasn't a song that made me run out and buy their record. And so I haven't heard it. I haven't downloaded it, I haven't done anything. I heard another one that was kinda goofy too, and then I heard, on the radio, 'She's the Woman,' and I thought that was kinda cool. That one sounds like what I would expect from Van Halen, a little closer to it. The other stuff didn't sound like what I was expecting, that's for sure."

Then there is the matter of today's Van Halen playing only songs from the Roth catalog while on tour. Hagar says that it must be hard for Eddie and Alex to have to ignore a gaping section of their career. "The difference between Dave and I in that band, besides all the other million things, is that he can't sing any of the Van Hagar-era songs. Maybe he could do 'Finish What Ya Started,' possibly — so that makes it kind of weird for [Alex and Eddie] I think to take 11 years out of that thing."

Another sticking point for Hagar has been that about half the material on A Different Kind of Truth comes from old demos, several from before the first Van Halen record was released in 1978. But Cherone, who in addition to fronting Hurtsmile and a reignited Extreme – ready to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pornograffiti with a tour of Japan and Russia, and possibly the States, later this year — looks at it differently.

"The starting point [for A Different Kind of Truth] was the old demos," Cherone says, "but to me, a riff's a riff. Eddie's added new things to it — this stuff is on fire. Of course you miss [ousted bassist Michael Anthony]; he was one of the four food groups. But Wolfie's no slouch. Alex is a machine, and Eddie is playing better than he's ever played. I love the record. It's kind of inspiring, it's like the king just took back his crown."

Meanwhile, the Hagar-led Chickenfoot are preparing to embark on a spring tour, with a date in Los Angeles bookended by a pair of Van Halen shows, something that initially had him pissed at the promoters.

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  Topics: Music Features , Van Halen, Van Halen, Gary Cherone,  More more >
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    Last month, after Van Halen dropped A Different Kind of Truth (Interscope) — the rock legends' first album of all new material with original singer David Lee Roth in almost three decades—fans and detractors alike took to the Internet to vote yea or nay on the comeback gigs.
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 See all articles by: MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER

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