You may have seen the advertisements that have started appearing on various different music sites over the last few weeks. Def Leppard releasing a new album and it getting plenty of promotion too. There’s something about that classic Def Leppard logo and cover art that never changes and it instantly got my interest. You somehow felt this was a return despite the band never having really gone anywhere. This is the same line up since Adrenalize but the first to feature all members of the band having a go at lead vocals at some point (I’ll leave it to you to work out who is who on which track). The album cover is classic Def Leppard; the logo bursting through shattered glass. The album title is also self-evident as Joe Elliot recently explained to Rolling Stone Magazine when asked to describe how the new album was sounding: well its sounds like Def Leppard. I can confirm that it does. So don that cut off denim jacket get out the hairspray and prepare to revisit the best of the 80’s back catalogue without actually sounding dated.
Def Leppard begins with the Lead Single “Let’s Go!”; a Rick Savage number; and you instantly will know what I mean about that Def Leppard sound. This is Def Leppard in every sense of the term. It has chunky guitars, a big chorus, I challenge you not to pumping your fist in the air by mid way through the song. It’s a call to arms and a great album opener as Joe Elliot sings ‘Welcome to the Carnival, welcome to the edge of your seats’
“Dangerous” is evident from the opening chords that it is another big show rocker. Great guitars, drums and riffs. Another catchy chorus, and a nod to their 80’s heyday. This is followed by “Man Enough” which is great change of style that works. It’s a simple yet effective song, that relies strongly upon a funk bass line to make what is really a pop funk song. It also has that great story telling style that Thunder made their own in the early 90’s.
“We Belong” is the first of the (power) ballads on the album and probably the only true ballad. ‘Sometime I feel that I don’t belong here. Sometimes I just don’t feel’. Classic themes in a classic style is both familiar and fresh at the same time. This is something that Def Leppard have always done really well. There are other slower ballads on the album but none as classic as this. Both ‘Battle of My Own” (an acoustic, almost Bon-Jovi-as-cowboys period feel to it) and “Last Dance” where they reminisce on times that have past and making the most of now could be included in this group.
“Invincible” is perhaps one of the more experimental tracks for Def Leppard, the opening riff has an 80’s post punk feel to it, before the track goes more post punk pop. “Sea of Love” opens with that familiar layered backing vocals, another funky song and with yet another catchy chorus: ‘Drift on the Sea of Love’. On this song you can really tell how well the band fit in together and have to admire driving rhythms, bass and drums.
“All Time High” is another song that has a nod in the way of Thunder with the story telling mixed in with an AC/DC solo. There really isn’t a bad song on this album. Another song that is going to get you pumping your fist with that classic Def Leppard style is “Broke n Broken Hearted”. I love the ascending and no stop for breath feel of the verse but it is the classic solos and again the familiar cry of the chorus that you will love ‘Broken, broken hearted!’
The album ends with “Wings of An Angel”, a slow burning song that has elements of that proto rock of the 80’s (I always imagine it like the shattered glass, great use of delay and overlay in reality) and “Blind Faith”. Is it really all a matter of trust? The croon at the tail end of this album, that backed with an ELO almost Dire Straits guitar. A moving ballad that turns in epic ending. A great come down after a great night out.
The band themselves have said in the build up to the release of Def Leppard that they don’t really expect to sell a million copies and that the album was made mainly for themselves and if you go to see them live you can still expect all the classics. Whether they are deliberately underselling themselves or genuinely don’t know what they have created I am not sure but this is classic Def Leppard from start to finish. The band have gone back to basics, 5 guys in a room, jamming, recording live and just enjoying themselves and this is evident throughout Def Leppard. That in itself may not sound that unusual but this is the first album to be recorded this way since 1996’s Slang.
It may not be quite edge of your seats stuff – this is Def Leppard after all – but this is a great album that easily stands alongside Pyromania and Hysteria. I genuinely really enjoyed this album. You need records like this in your collection, records that can make you smile and forget about everything for a while. They may have made this record for themselves but I for one am glad they invited us to listen in. The more I have listened to it the more I have enjoyed it. The Leppard may not have changed their spots but who cares when it sounds this good?
Def Leppard is out now.