Van Halen's Greatest Hits with Diamond Dave

Forget Van Hagar.

And let's not even mention that poor schnook from Extreme, Gary Somebody.

This playlist revels in classic Van Halen. The only Van Halen, really. With American hero Diamond Dave and his arsenal of scissor kicks out front, the group dropped six killer albums between 1978 and '84, one of the more astonishing runs in rock history. Not only that, they've returned with A Different Kind of Truth, a record that's better than anyone could've imagined.

The patent Van Halen sound embodies what legendary critic and Aesthetics of Rock author Richard Meltzer called the "internal chaos" at the heart of all great rock 'n' roll. The band utterly dissolved the divisions between raging 1970s hard rock and lightweight A.M. pop. Picking up where Jimi Hendrix left off, Eddie Van Halen has taken guitar overdrive into another dimension while helping pen timeless throwaways about partying and good times that were as teenage-suburban as anything by pre- Pet Sounds Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. Likewise, D.L.R. has never decided whether he wants to be Jim Dandy, Jim Morrison, Louis Prima or Diana Ross, with a cheeseball sense of showmanship that's decidedly pre-rock.

As for the actual tunes, well, they can be kind of strange, sweaty gutter boogie executed with a classically honed sensibility. Some of them -- "Hot for Teacher," "Everybody Wants Some!!", the new "Honeybabysweetiedoll" -- defy verse/chorus/verse in ways that mix frat-rock inanity (The Wailers, The Kingsmen) with avant-garde genius. Plus, they're just fun as all hell!

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