Van Halen (1978)
Van Halen was an ambitious four-piece band that started as KISS disciples (the makeup-covered metalheads supported them, letting VH open on one of their tours) and ended as legends. They utilized punk’s harshness and attitude, but channeled it in a new direction, allowing for eponymous brothers Eddie and Alex (on guitar and drums, respectively) to shred with an incredibly virtuosic, theatrical flair. These two were accompanied by the steady bass playing and angelic 60s-esque vocal harmonies of Michael Anthony. Once the archetypal outsized stage persona of lead singer David Lee Roth was added, their unique formula was complete.
This game-changing debut put an emphasis on technical skill in hard rock, while never becoming pretentious and always giving the listener entertaining, traditional pop tunes to dance to. Additionally, the group’s melodies hearkened back to the days of raunchy, fun boogie and rockabilly songs. In retrospect, this paradigm was the basis of most hair metal in the 1980s. “Diamond” Dave’s lascivious, tongue-in-cheek histrionics and shenanigans made an audience-friendly, charismatic frontman a highly desirable factor for most rock bands to come. Self-deprecation and self-indulgence went hand in hand with VH, establishing the hedonistic, sardonic bent of much 80s pop. Van Halen was undoubtedly influential and ridiculously popular, with pretty much every last song frequently circulated on rock radio to this day, and it still outshines all its imitators with ridiculously high track-by-track quality.
Key track: “Eruption/You Really Got Me”
See also: Women And Children First – Van Halen (1980), Fair Warning – Van Halen (1981), Diver Down – Van Halen (1982), 1984 – Van Halen (1984)