DEF LEPPARD – Def Leppard

Def LeppardWhen I was a kid, my family had a pretty big motor boat, the kind that you could live in, which meant that when my parents took their vacation during the summer, we were off to the Swedish archipelago for five weeks, cruising around small islands where we would stay for a day or two and then off to the next. My best friend back then’s family also had a boat, one just like ours so we would spend our vacations together. Now, as me and my brother both were addicted to music already as kids, a tape recorder was a must to bring along, a vacation without our beloved music wasn’t even under discussion. That mean that I put all of my records on tape before the vacation started to bring along for the ride. The summer of 1983, my best then friend Richard brought along another of our mutual friends, Patrik who brought along a tape he has gotten from a friend at school that had Van Halen’s debut album on one side and the new Def Leppard album Pyromania on the other. Before that summer I hadn’t heard either records and that tape floored us all completely and was probably the only tape we played those five weeks. After a few weeks we had to make a stop at some harbor to do some grocery shopping and I ran to the closest record store I could fins and bought both the Lep and the Van Halen albums right away. I couldn’t play them on the boat, but I could damn well look at the cover and read lyrics and credit lists while listening to the tape. The first weekday after the vacation was over, I took my allowance and bought the other two Leppard records, High ‘n’ Dry (1981) and On Through The Night (1980) and since then I have been a huge Def Leppard fan. Def Leppard is also one of the few bands that has never made me disappointed, except for the bland pop album (2002) and the underwhelming covers album Yeah! (2006). But the four-year wait, that felt like decade, between Pyromania and the masterpiece Hysteria (1987) was almost unbearable. Adrenalize (1992) and Retro Active (1993) – their album of unreleased material, b-sides and covers – were both great and 1996’s Slang, an album some fans like to call Leppard’s “alternative” record is extremely underrated and a record I really love. Euphoria (1999) has been under discussion among Leppard-fans where some love that record and some don’t like it all. I think that record is great, but maybe a bit uneven at (very few) times. The last time Def Leppard gave us a new studio effort was back in 2008 and the album was called Songs From The Sparkle Lounge, a record that mixed more or less their whole career style wise. There’s the big pop of Hysteria, the hard rock from Pyromania and  High ‘n’ Dry and even some of the darker sounds that Slang brought us. A really good album and a huge step forward from and Yeah! But not much hope of a new studio album has been given to us from the Leppard camp. The explanation “that no one buys records anymore, so why bother?” cliché what was we were told from the Leps as soon as the question was raised.

But late last year the guys turned around and told us that they had written some really cool songs and that maybe an E.P. was in the works. But the months passed and no Leppard product was out until one day when they stated that they band have had a creative flow and that the E.P. was now a full album and that the sound would be similar to the sound that broke the band all those years ago and that they sure had learned a lot from Mutt Lange when it came to studio work. Hale-fuckken-lujah! This was really good news for us Leppard fans, indeed. When October was closing in it was time for the band to show off their first single – and, it turned out, opening track – called “Let’s Go”. To say that the song went back to their big 80’s sound is the understatement of the decade. The song is actually very close to being a rip-off of their own “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. But a clone, it’s not, although, there are similarities. But it’s a fantastic song, groovy and extremely catchy – talk about giving the fans what they want. The song has “HIT” written all over it. They follow that track with hit # 2, “Dangerous” and that one takes us back to Pyromania. The song gives me some “Photograph”-vibes and shows that the guys – in this case Phil Collen and Joe Elliott – are capable to still write some high quality stuff. But the classic “back to the glory days” sound is gone already by track three, “Man Enough”. The song has a dance beat and a club music vibe, but with a melodic rock Def Leppard sound on it. It’s a good song, but it feels misplaced and it don’t really belong. But “We Belong” do belong here. It’s a good enough ballad, no “Love Bites”, but still good enough, but the coolest thing with it is that all the members share lead vocals on it and all of them can really sing. Very cool. “Invincible” has a darker, Slang-like feel to it and I hear such influences as Simple Minds, U2 and even Glasgow rockers Gun on it. It sounds very much Def Leppard and it’s a great song, but back to the roots it’s not. “Sea Of Love” is a hard rocker that brings out their 70’s Sweet, Bowie and Slade glam rock influences, very much a straight-no-chaser kind of song, very meat and potatoes – great stuff. “Energize Me” is a bit schizophrenic – it’s a ballad that also reminds me of Slang, but it has a very Hysteria-like melody, but there’s an electronica vibe to it as well. Good song, but it needs plenty of spins to stick. “All Time High” is a killer, though. It’s a sleazy rocker with a chorus to die for and a High ‘n’ Dry style musically with a Hysteria-like production. “Battle Of My Own” is great as well, an acoustic track with Beatles-esque melodies and vocals and a big Led Zeppelin groove. “Broke ‘n’ Brokenhearted” is a very catchy melodic rocker that mixes the sound of High ‘n’ DryPyromania and  Adrenalize and will probably go down real well if they ever play it live. “Forever Young” is a straight forward rock, but unfortunately, it’s on the forgettable side and to me this is a filler. “Last Dance” is an acoustic guitar based ballad, like a more folk-song influenced “Two Steps Behind”. It’s really good and I could see this one being a single. “Wings Of An Angel” is awesome with its 90’s sounding Slang meets Euphoria sounds and melodies. Closing track “Blind Faith” is darker and a bit mellow but big sounding ballad. It is, to tell you the truth, a bit dull to begin with but they heavy it up towards the end and yes, it turns into a really good song. But I really would have loved this album to end like it started, with a song that sounds like it could have been a leftover from Hysteria.

The word that Def Leppard had made an album that was back to the sound of Hysteria and Pyromania is severely exaggerated, as you might have guessed. Sure , there are a few tracks that really have gone back to that sound, but if you’re buying this album expecting only that, then there’s a risk that you’ll be disappointed, big time. No, this record is in sound in par with the later Def Leppard releases, where the band has brought forward a whole bunch of other influences and just went with the flow. This has more in common with Songs From The Sparkle Lounge than any other Lep-record, but I think this one is better. Some people will probably feel cheated and sure, I can dig that, I mean, I was also hoping for such an album, but the thing is, this album is so high in quality and the variation of styles is really beneficial for the band. The thing is, no matter what these guys do, it’s gonna sound like Def Leppard – the arrangements, the melodies, the vocals. To me, this is by far the best Def Leppard since Slang or even Adrenalize. As soon as you realize that this isn’t Hysteria Pt 2 and just put the focus on how great the songs are, this album just might be a new Def Leppard classic.

8/10

Tracklist:

  1. Let’s Go
  2. Dangerous
  3. Man Enough
  4. We Belong
  5. Invincible
  6. Sea Of Love
  7. Energized
  8. All Time High
  9. Battle Of My Own
  10. Broke ‘n’ Brokenhearted
  11. Forever Young
  12. Last Dance
  13. Wings Of An Angel
  14. Blind Faith

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