I've spent approximately 4% of my life trying to determine the best Van Halen album. This, of course, is a subjective endeavor. Then again, I suppose some quantitatively minded person could develop a set of metrics to objectively make the call. But that ain't me. Let me take you through my process.
The easy part is eliminating anything that happened after 1984.
I get caught up between Diver Down, Fair Warning, and 1984.
I am quick to remove their first three albums from the picture (Van Halen, Van Halen II, Women and Children First). Each are strong albums in their own right, but none of them offer enough to make it into the final round. Van Halen II gets the closest on the strength of Dance the Night Away, and don't forget their fine cover of You're No Good. Women and Children First contains one of my top 10 favorite Van Halen songs--In a Simple Rhyme--but it's not an album that provides enough good content from beginning to end.
As I write this, I'm twisting myself in a knot, and ready to delete this, which is something I've done numerous times over the years in trying to write this post. As soon as I review the tracks of the first Van Halen album, I'm ready to put it back into consideration for best album. Goodness, you've got Runnin' with the Devil, a cover of You Really Got Me, Feel Your Love Tonight, and Eddie Van Halen doing his thing on Eruption. There's also Ice Cream Man. One day I'll tell you about how Ice Cream Man got me out of a fight in 8th grade, but you'll have to wait until my memoir.
As usual, I'm stuck, and again I'm close to hitting delete and moving on with my life. I've probably spent closer to 6% of my life with this process. You can judge me for that. I accept.
Maybe there's no right answer to the question. Maybe that's the answer I've been searching for all these years. But it's no fun to sit on the fence. The fact of the matter is that one of their albums is better than the others. I have to face another fact: I am not ready to conclude which album is the best. I will return to this another day. I have to be content with the process. For now, let's keep this thing inconclusive and enjoy the simple beauty of Runnin' With The Devil.