Def Leppard – Songs From The Sparkle Lounge
Mike sent me this one, as well as one single, a while back. It’s interesting to have this here because I haven’t owned a Def Leppard album since I had Pyromania on cassette (!) as a kid. Funny thing is, I’d call myself a fan, I like what they do well enough. I just don’t own any of it except what Mike sent my way!
Alright, so I was 9 years old when Pyromania was released. I loved it. I heard some of the big singles, along the way. And years later, I was drummer in a band, and the guitar player was (probably still is) a HUGE Def Leppard fan. Talked about them a lot. Fast forward through gaps of not hearing anything from these guys to today, when I am hearing this 2008 album. Ready? Of course you are!
First off, lemme just get out of the way that I find the title and the cover art amusingly bad. Seriously. You’re global superstars, rock heroes. And this is what you name your record? And you OK that cover? Oh dear. Anyway. Carry on, gentlemen.
Go is definitely heavy, and chugs along with some menace. I like it. It still sounds like Def Leppard always did, though there’s something a bit 90s to it too, I think in the vocals. Wish I could say why or explain such a nebulous statement… Nine Lives sounds like Def Leppard doing new country rock when it starts off. Not a criticism, just something I noticed. But then the chorus kicks in and there’s that signature sound. It’s a weird mix. Yeehaw. Decent track, though.
C’mon C’mon brings back the heavier guitars (maybe should’ve paired it with Go), and it’s a very fun fist-pumper. Something J. Geils Band about it, but I’ll bet this song would be tons of fun in concert… Love, well, here we go. I was expecting the pretty, acoustic tune and here it is. I could hear Bryan Adams singing this one, of all people. It becomes a fairly standard rock ballad slow dancer. But as it gets to the 2:40 mark or so I totally hear Queen. Then a big, ripping metal solo with machine gun backing… This track is all over the place and gets more interesting as it goes. This would be a fave track so far.
Tomorrow is a rocker right out of the gate, though the ‘hoo hoo hoo’ in the intro is a bit silly. That could just be me, though, I mean, power to them, and all. You know what, this song sounds like only Def Leppard sounds. If they have a typical sound, this would be it… Cruise Control has a fun and slinky bass line. Oh man, why does Stabbing Westward come to mind, here? Ah, but then the chorus is totally DL again. Interesting. Not a stand-out track but definitely serviceable. Also, never name a song Cruise Control. It makes me think that’s what you were on during the writing.
Hallucinate is a bad-ass rocker. I like this. I find it amazing how it doesn’t matter what they do in the verses and bridges, the chorus always just screams Def Leppard. Good guitar solo here, short as it is. A well-constructed tune… Only The Good Die Young is, sadly, not a Bily Joel cover. Instead, it’s a soft intro that becomes a weird Queen/U2 mix before taking off in rock mode. Mid-tempo, with the whole 90s dynamics package: quiet verse, loud chorus, bridge to solo, followed by a quiet bit just to show they’re serious, let it hang a second and then back to the loud chorus. You know what I mean.
Bad Actress shows some real life, off to full gallop out of the gates. Now THIS is something I like! Finally some real rawk! This is gonna be a fave from the record, I just know it. Yup, I’d make this one top of the list… Come Undone brings the half-tempo chug back. Another basic Def Leppard track. It’s not a bad thing, just all I could think was yup, there they are. And Gotta Let It Go starts out so quietly, and I sat here just waiting for the inevitable crash burst. Ah, there it is. Nice use of dynamics. Not a bas track to end an album.
In sum: For not having heard much of these guys since I was a kid, I enjoyed this. It works better as a whole than as a collection of would-be singles. My huge thanks to Mike for sharing this with me. I’d likely never have heard it if left to my own devices!
***For Mike’s superior and informed review, you should immediately go here.