Van Halen

Warner Brothers Records, 1983


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Quick, where were you when you discovered the video for "Jump," and possibly discovered Van Halen? I still remember I was watching Friday Night Videos when they opened up with this clip from Van Halen. Its homemade look and high energy level, combined with what still is a damn fine song, hooked me the moment I heard it. In a short span of time, I had picked up all of Van Halen's albums.

That album, 1984, remains Van Halen's best work to this day, and served as an unexpected swansong to the first version of the band. (One of the funniest lines in The Wedding Singer is when Adam Sandler tells his ex-fiancee to get out of his Van Halen t-shirt "before you jinx the band and they break up.")

Eddie Van Halen and crew were admittedly stagnating. Their previous release, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Diver Down, was most definitely experimental, but its reliance on cover tunes seemed to only make conditions worse. Clearly, this band needed a shot in the arm -- and to many people's surprise, it came in the form of keyboards. The opening work "1984" spells out in just over one minute that this is going to be an exciting trip, and your first stop is "Jump."

Think about it: a hard rock tune that hit the top of the charts with only a little guitar work. But if any song sealed Eddie Van Halen's title as a guitar god, this was it. Lead singer David Lee Roth is in fine form, bassist Michael Anthony continued to happily thump away on his four-stringer, and drummer Alex Van Halen... well, there's a reason I consider him one of the few masters of the drum kit, the other being Neil Peart.

All of the singles off 1984 are as fresh today as they were back in the mid-'80s. "Panama" is a song that had my two-year-old bouncing happily in front of the speakers, while "Hot For Teacher" is still a slice of guilty fun that features some incredible double bass work from Alex Van Halen. A lesser-known single but not lesser-played, "I'll Wait," is the only moment of "weakness," if you can even call it that. It is a definite lean towards radio-friendliness (never mind the fact that "Jump" was all over the dials), but it does capture a different side of Van Halen.

Even the songs that didn't make the cut as singles are pretty tasty. "House Of Pain," the album's closer (and, from what I remember, the b-side to the "Jump" single), is a return to balls-out rock that demonstrates Van Halen hadn't lost a step, while tracks like "Top Jimmy" and "Drop Dead Legs" all rock just as hard.

The striking thing about 1984 is its brevity; the nine songs on this disc fly by before you're even settled into your chair. But after a few disappointments, perhaps the band decided that "less is more"... whatever the case, it worked. The other thought that hits the listener is, "What would the band have come up with had Roth stayed with the band?" Unfortunately, he would leave the band by 1986 to start his own solo career.

1984 is another album that qualifies as a must-own, no matter what form of music you're a fan of.

Rating: A

User Rating: A



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.