Ah, 1984, the year I was born in. The year that the Apple Macintosh came out. A year that has become synonymous with dystopian society. It was also the year that Van Halen’s iconic album 1984 came out. While the sixth studio album was a departure from their recognized sound, many critics lauded the album and its exciting foray into new territory. It would also be the last album the band recorded with vocalist David Lee Roth (until this years A Different Kind Of Truth). But does this album still have the same punch as it did nearly three decades ago? Or has age worn this beast down?
Let’s get something clear from the start: filled with many of Van Halen’s most popular songs (Jump, Panama and Hot For Teacher), 1984 is a classic album that achieved the coveted “timeless” status the day it came out. It’s an album that showed Van Halen daring to break out from what was expected of them and embracing changing times while still managing to sound entirely like themselves.
The album still sounds fantastic. The guitars sound huge but not overbearing, the synthesizers thick and exciting, the drums boomy in the toms and sizzling in the cymbals, and the bass perfectly mixed in as a concrete solid foundation. Perhaps the most important and enjoyable aspect of this mix is how dynamic it is. Rather than a wall of sound with each section as loud as the previous, this album changes it up and keeps the listener guessing, one hand cautiously close to the volume knob.
Clocking in at just over 33 minutes with only nine tracks, 1984 can easily be considered short by today’s standards, especially considering the first track is naught more than a synthesizer intro. But length doesn’t matter when songs are as tight and exciting as this. For me, each song is tight, to the point, and has a grab-you-by-the-throat mentality.
The Final Word: As I stated above, Van Halen’s 1984 is a timeless classic that belongs in any music library, regardless of taste. Considering that it’s been 28 years since its release, this only proves how exciting these guys are.