Van Halen-Diver Down
When I think of summer I think of sunny days, watermelon, pools, vacations and inevitably Diamond Dave era Van Halen. It just seems like summer music to me and has for a long time. However their fifth album Diver Down is probably not the first release that pops into your mind when you think of this band. Any conversation about this album inevitably will bring about a mention of the number of cover songs and instrumentals and indeed the majority of the material here falls into one of those two category. That fact used to bother me a little, but ultimately it's not always what a band does but rather how they do it. Listening to it in that way, I would say this is still very much a classic Van Halen album. Is it fun? Yes . Does Eddie play some interesting guitar passages? Yes. Is the rhythm section everything it had been on the previous four albums? Yes. Is Dave all that Dave was in the 1980's? Why indeed he is. I can see the initial hang-ups with the album to some extent. "Dancing in the street" is not my favorite track in the world, but "Pretty Woman" and the "Intruder" intro reminds more of "Fair Warning" which is a good thing. "Big bad Bill" is pure Diamond Dave and you can tell he is all over that one. I have always like "Cathedral" and the "Little Guitars (intro)" and remember rewinding my walkman to hear them again when I was younger. I have always thought that "Where have all the good times gone", "Hang 'em high" and "Full bug" are entertaining tracks and enthusiastic even if they aren't stellar. Even a few years after it's release some of the band members seemed to be apologetic or doing some finger pointing when referring to this album. Sure, it could have been better, but looking back on it I think it's nice that it was different and overall it holds up rather well for what it is. Actually it's probably on the same level as "Woman and children first" which also has different bits here and there rather just being straight forward all full length standard songs. In retrospect "Diver Down" is an interesting chapter in the all too short life of one of the best hard rock bands of our time. I think the album ultimately succeeds, it's just that we as fans may have been hoping for a little more. It's not the best Roth-era Van Halen album yet it still has enough going for it to be a good album and it's easily better than any of the post 1984 Van Halen albums. It may not be the first album I reach for by them, but I do reach for it often enough. I have to admit that I still smile when "Happy Trails" comes on. So pour yourself some ice tea, lay down in the lawn chair, listen to some classic Van Halen and enjoy the rest of the summer.