Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"1984" by Van Halen (1984)

View the Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl.

Filed between: Frankie Valli and The Ventures.

Fun Fact: 
If you turn the volume way up and listen closely during the guitar solo in Top Jimmy, you can hear the sound of a shark being jumped.

Key Tracks:
Panama is a great song, even if it is a safe retread of lots of other VH tracks.  Hot for Teacher rekindles the band's interest in making music - even if it does seem to catch each member's interest in different places.

Obvious Filler and Swings-and-Misses:
There's always that one VH track that just didn't cook long enough.  Here, it's Girl Gone Bad.  That song is everything that's terrible about hair rock.  House of Pain leaves a good riff flailing in a sea of indifference.

My Overall Rating of the Tracks Separately:
Average (2/4 stars)

"1984" is proof that phoning it in won't keep you from going ten times platinum.  And Van Halen is definitely phoning it in here.  Of course, this was their sixth studio album in six years (with the same producer).  That well has to run dry at some point.  I would argue that "1984" is the band at their least creative - even less than "Diver Down" which had more covers than originals.

It sounds like the guys are just roaming aimlessly around the studio and stumbling bass-ackwards into incredibly hokey hooky songs.  Other than the drum solo that kicks off side two, there is not one new sound or idea to be found here.  But that if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it mentality paid off in spades.  This is the record that has all the songs you know.  You know 'em so well that's it's pretty much impossible to listen to "1984" with any pretense of fresh ears.  The average person has heard Jump 413.7 times.  (Sports fans have heard it an average of 1,017.)  Panama and Hot for Teacher aren't far behind.  Rock radio fans have heard all of those plus Drop Dead Legs and I'll Wait ad nauseum.

And those are some good songs, but when you line 'em up and play 'em back to back, you can hear the absolute boredom of everyone involved in making them.  It's probably a good thing Dave left after this record or else the boys probably would have given up altogether and never done anything that sounded remotely interesting again.  Oh, wait...

So, is it an album?  No.  Nobody cares enough to decide if it's a prog record or a blues record or a hair metal record or a Dave-spoken-word record to ever try to put it all together.

Up next, we get our first live LP courtesy of the chairman of the board himself - "The Main Event Live" by Frank Sinatra.

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