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Music Review: Def Leppard – Songs From the Sparkle Lounge

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It’s obvious that Def Leppard tries to compare themselves to The Beatles with the cover of their new album Songs From the Sparkle Lounge. One look and anyone who has paid attention to popular culture over the last 50 years will instantly see the similarities to the Beatle’s hugely important Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

That said, there are a few things the two groups have in common, and they mostly revolve around riches, fame, and nationality. What the two groups don’t share is a knack for experimentation and studio trickery – and that’s where Songs From the Sparkle Lounge is largely a bust.

Named after a room backstage that the band utilized on their last tour to write songs and warm up, Songs From the Sparkle Lounge continues a trend and change in sound that Def Leppard has been toying with for years. In addition, for the lengthy amount of time it takes Def Leppard to make a record, Songs From the Sparkle Lounge sounds like it was hastily thrown together.

Take the bands first single, “Nine Lives.” It has a great guitar riff that could really jump out at you. Instead, about ten seconds into the song, it becomes secondary to the band’s desire for experimentation. On this particular track, that experimentation includes having country music star Tim McGraw guest on the track. This is something that adds nothing to the song and might just be a play for the band to be better accepted on the festival circuit.

The next track, “C’mon C’mon,” finds the band trying to build a sing-along instead of just letting the song evolve into one on its own. It’s also where the band starts a lot of unnecessary hooting, hollering, and various strange noises that continue throughout the record and are more distracting than anything else.

A lot of Def Leppard’s mass appeal is the band’s great songwriting when it comes to ballads. Sadly, the albums lone ballad, “Love,” takes the right direction with its stripped down acoustic sound, but is ultimately forgetful when compared to the bands other masterful ballads like “Love Bites” and “Bringing on the Heartbreak.”

The one redeeming track on Songs From the Sparkle Lounge is “Bad Actress.” This is a great track that shows the hints of guitar rock and rawness that were once the bands greatest assets.

Overall, Songs From the Sparkle Lounge is probably a record that will fade away instead of rocketing up the charts. Either way, the band still puts on a hell of a live show and these songs will probably come off better live than on record because Def Leppard does have a knack for that as they have been proving for ages now.

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About bdaviet

  • Matt

    I guess you can’t please the critics, thats only what they have been trying to do since Adrenalise, and with Songs From The Sparke Lounge the band decided to just rock out.

    What you also failed to take into consideration is that Def Leppard have expiremented with Pyromania, Hysteria, Retro Active, Slang and X.

    Also, the cover is a way to show people that album covers are jsut as important as the music itsself, let alone it shows why Vinyl is in someways better than CDs.

    Eitherway, this album is 10 times better than most of the crap that gets put out today.

  • Lisa

    Brandon, I couldn’t agree more with your review. I’m a huge Def Leppard fan but this CD really disappointed me. The songs I’ve heard so far are mediocre at best and I expected much better, especially after all the hype.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    What you also failed to take into consideration is that Def Leppard have expiremented with Pyromania, Hysteria, Retro Active, Slang and X

    It’s just unfortunate that there is only 1 out of those 5 records that really “experimented” well,Pyromania.

    Sorry to say, along with Queensryche & Poison, Def Leppard should call it quits…Old News.

  • Matt

    Brian, Slang and X were their most expiremental albums to date, Slang especially.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    Most experimental does not always translate to good.

  • Mike

    I listened to about 6 of the tracks and found myself liking 2 a lot and accepting 2 others. Although I doubt any band from Leppards era will catch on at this point, it is interesting to note that Hysteria had poor reviews. I remember reading a review which said Pour Some Sugar on Me was a major disapointment.

  • Matt

    What you jsut stated is true Chris, but I wouldn’t call Slang or X bad, Slang is a very underrated album, probably the most underrated album of the 90s.

    As for X, I like it, but most fans hate it except for a few songs.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I remember reading a review which said Pour Some Sugar on Me was a major disappointment.

    And that review is very accurate even to this day. It is still the most highly played song off of Hysteria & it was their worst off of Hysteria.

    Brian, Slang and X were their most [experimental] albums to date, Slang especially.

    And, I would have to say that Mr. Beaumont got my point exactly! Def Leppard wasn’t known for experimenting, they were known for their Hard Rockin’ Kick Ass tunes.It’s not like they don’t have the talent?! For f*cks sake, why can’t any of these 80’s rock bands figure this out. If it’s not broken then don’t fix it! And, if ya don’t have it anymore then just retire the band name & do a different project. At least, go out on a high note(no pun)!

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a Lep fan from way back, but they really fell off after Steve Clark died. Everything I have heard since that point has been hit or miss for me, I like some, but they never came close to their 80’s output.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I hear ya…

    It’s a horrible thing when you lose somebody close to you especially if that person is such an intricate part of your life & Def Leppard has had their bouts with tragedy,definitely. But, they were losing “it” with Hysteria and that was before Mr. Clark passed away(R.I.P.).

    It’s just a damn shame… I love High’n’Dry & Pyromania had such an influence on me. Besides Killers[Maiden], that album was a huge factor in wanting to be a musician!

    Oh well, people here think I’m just too critical.
    Maybe the BC residents don’t understand the passion I have for music… It truly is my life!!

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom Johnson

    They didn’t “lose ‘it'” with Hysteria – they just changed “it.” Hysteria is an incredible piece of work – nothing else before or after it sounds like it. They knew they had already achieved one type of perfection with Pyromania and opted to aim for a different type with the next one, and I think they did it. When I listen to those two, I listen to them for two different reasons – Hysteria is a “song” record and Pyromania is just all-out ROCK, from beginning to end (and, yes, High & Dry comes pretty close to matching it.) They’ve never come close to reaching the heights they attained in the 80s, but I don’t know that’s a realistic goal. I think the mistake everyone – fans and the band alike – keep making is thinking that it’s an achievable goal. Yeah! was truly the closest this band will ever get to their classic power and it’s because they went back to their roots. But they’ve turned that corner with their own songwriting over the years that prevents them from truly doing it again themselves, unfortunately. I still think they have some worthwhile stuff in them – I think Slang is an excellent album for those with an open-mind, but stuff like X was truly sad: an obvious attempt to garner some hits from the pop market that has no interest in them, and for good reason: they were crap songs. I’m still going to pick up Sparkle Lounge when it comes out, but I’m doing so with the same trepidation I do when most bands of this era put out a new album. (Hey, I hear that new Dokken is actually quite good . . . )

  • Tyk

    I’ve heard the seven samples from Rockline, and its easily Lep’s best work since Slang, which was the band’s best album period.

    The problem with Leppard today isn’t Leppard, it’s that the majority of its fans continue to think its 1987. That has put the band in this awkward position of trying to please those fans, but try to expand and grow.

    I’d rather hear Leppard experiment than record the same sounding stuff over and over again.

  • Matt Williams

    I find it kind of Ironic that the band have been keeping the songs and album well guarded until it’s release later on this month.

    I’m also very doubtful that you actually heard more than the small (and very static sounding) clips from Rockline Radio.

    You reviewed three songs off of the album, but didn’t review the whole thing. That makes for a shabby review.

    However, the comparison to The Beatles is a good call and very interesting, as they themselves admitted that the cover is a tribute to the Sgt. Peppers Cover.

  • Mel

    All bands change with time. If they didn’t they wouldn’t remain popular. HnD was a great album, Pyro was better and Hysteria was better for the later 80’s.

    I can honestly say that after Steve Clark died I stopped listening for a while so I don’t know much about the albums past Adrenalized but the few songs I have heard, some I liked. Slang is a good example, sounds nothing like DL normally sounds but when I played it for my son, he thought it was really cool and wanted to know who it was.

    I plan to wait until I can listen to the songs a little more before I make such a detailed critisism. Some I’m sure I will like and some I probably wont, but there are not that many albums that I like EVERY SONG.

  • Brandon Daviet (Author)

    To Matt William. Look, stay off The Black Crowes wedsite. I was sent an “Advance CD” I listened to the whole album, on a kick ass system, about ten time before I reviwed it. I did fail to profess my love for Slang in the review but Sparkle Lounge. The last few paragraphs should show my love for the band.

    As for you matt go back to reading you copy of Maxim

  • JJ

    This is just one person’s review, but coming from a Def Lepp fan, I think this album sounds great. 99% of fans I have heard from love the album.

  • http://drinkACTamerica.com DavidG.

    Def Leppard w/out question remains The Finest Rock Band on the Planet. No other Rock band has the Songs,The Melodies,The Uniqueness. Not Bon Jovi,not Nickelback (please)- no one.

    This New Album will do Great on the Charts,VH1, and on Radio.Big TV Push later this month with appearances on Ellen,Jimmy Kimmel and on Dancing w/The Stars – Big Time Exposure for a Band that Should Easily have already been inducted in The Rock -n- Roll Hall of Fame; there are bands/artists in the Hall that should in no way be in there.

  • Jamie Williams

    Def Leppard’s Hysteria was not just their best album, it was one the the best albums of the 80’s! They came through so much to complete it and created a sound of their own that was very quickly copied (Whitesnake, Winger etc) but never bettered. The album casts such a massive shadow over their career that it is not just their greatest achievement, it has also become their biggest burden. No matter what they do now it will never be as successful as Hysteria because the timing will never be so right again. They are only considered an eighties band nowadays because they were so big in the eighties, but that’s not to say that they are any less relevant. In fact I would say that when they have tried to recapture Hysteria (Adrenalize & Euphoria) they have generally failed, because they sound like a watered down version of themselves. They are struggling to avoid becoming victims of their own success. Slang was a step away from there compfort zone, but despite good reviews the album didn’t do that well. Euphoria was then a step to far the other way and with the exception of a few songs sounded like a album of Hysteria rejects. However I think they needed to have made those records and got them out of their system to have then made X, which was somewhere in the middle and a much better album than anyone here seems to give it credit for. Yeah! was a great collection of seventies rock that reconnected the band with what got them into making the music they do. With the exception of Cruise Control, what I’ve heard from the new album sounds like good old Def Leppard doing what they do best, getting your foot tappin’ to catchy singalong rock songs! Best of luck to them – I’ll stick with them no matter what they do and I’m British and there’s not many over here that would say that.

  • Fireinme

    I agree that even tho Def Leppard and their fans want to go back to the 80’s glam and NWOBHM, they know that it isnt 1987 anymore, and music styles have changed, and to keep producing material, even as long as it takes, is a HUGE deal, most of the bands that we enjoyed listening to in the 80’s are long gone, or haven’t made anything new in a long time. I do agree that the album is experimental, but thats how new trends are discovered. Def Leppard has done a good job adapting through the years, and I think that its a good album overall. I like it and cant stop listening to it.

  • Courtney

    I really like the album, I think it’s great! Better than X.

  • Ron

    DL Fan since1983. Ive heard a lot of critizism on the band from the mid-90s thru today. What I hear is the same thing over and over again. Personally Im fed up with Def Leppard haters. If you dont like em fine, guit buying their albums or listening to their songs. I mean its really getting old. Find a new band to hate. Maybe Nickleback all their songs are good maybe you can spend the next 15 years hating them. If you every album to sound like High N Dry listen to ACDC. Their albums all sound the same. Def Leppards worst album is still better than 1/2 the crap thats put out today. If they suck so much why do bother writing about them. Find a new hobby.

  • Ben Gadbois

    I’ve gotta say that it beats X, and sounds like their 80’s hits at occasional spots, which was their peak. So I think they are trying to get back to that sound, which they seem to not mastered on this album, but it’s a lot closer.

  • Darran

    No! – For you to say the are comparing themselves to the Beatles is because you bascially have nothing else to say. Oh and the other thing a REAL CRITIC doesnt have to keep going back to HYSTERIA or PYROMANIA, or any other bands successful albums from the past.
    Maybe leppard should have written HYSTERIA II cause thats all you critics seem to comment on. Get over it! Leppard did! Keep up the good work boys!

  • http://www.madisonsquarebedroom.com John

    This band can’t win. If they try to recreate the Mutt Lange era, they get slammed for not progressing (Euphoria, anyone?) If they try to do something different, they get slammed for being too experimental.

    Whatever. I think it’s a pretty good record. Hysteria came out 21 years ago. I think it’s time for people to let go and let these guys grow up.

  • http://www.madisonsquarebedroom.com John

    This band can’t win. If they try to recreate the Mutt Lange era, they get slammed for not progressing (Euphoria, anyone?) If they try to do something different, they get slammed for being too experimental.

    Whatever. I think it’s a pretty good record. Hysteria came out 21 years ago. I think it’s time for people to let go and let these guys grow up.

  • sophia

    i agree with john’s comment. it’s good for a band to evolve, and furthermore, it’s natural. you get older, your tastes change, and if you’re an artist, that’s going to reflect in you’re work. heck, it reflects in other forms of work too.

    personally, i think “bad actress” is the WORST track on this album! i like “Go” and “Tomorrow” best. i do agree that having tim mcgraw on “nine lives” was not a great idea. he sounds really cheesey in this musical context. at first i thought it was joe doing a weird impersonation thing to be funny or something. then i read about it and thought “oh, well, that explains that!” ha ha ha

    and i thought Slang was one of the best albums ever. i thought def leppard was taking a very interesting turn with that, but i guess because of the criticism they went back to arena rock in euphoria. can’t please ‘em all, def lep, i say just do what you want. be true to your inspirations.

  • Timothy Cook

    I have to say that the new DEF LEPPARD album contains monster hits throughout the entire album. The melodies in these songs are so brilliant in such a way that they run so much deeper than most of the stuff that is out there. DEF LEPPARD doesn’t have to experiment everytime they release an album mainly because they make their songs so perfect and brilliantly arranged with perfect melody, and I don’t hear anyone else out there that can do that.

  • chris lasek

    yeah this album isn’t very good. its better than X, but X sounded like the backstreet boys for christ’s sake. this album sounds way too commercial, like they are trying to get young teeny boppers to like their music. as for having tim mcgraw sing on a def lepp tune hahaha what a joke. i honeslty believe that if def leppard dont make a decent album next time, they should call it quits. it has been down hill since steve clarke died, i’m sorry to say but its true. all in all i give this album 2 stars outta 5

  • —JaYmZ—

    Chris i couldn’t agree more. This is a bad cd, but not as bad as slang or x, man did they stink, this also stinks, just not as much. DEF LEPPARD, MAKE A GOOD CD FOR ONCE INSTEAD OF THIS TRIPE YOU CALL ROCK, ITS A MERE BLEND OF BAD RIFFS AND RECYCLED POP MUSIC LEFTOVER FROM THE LIKES OF NICKLEBACK AND OTHER SHITE BANDS!!! I am really disappointed about this cd, I thought they were finally coming to their senses but NO, they release this, oh well. glad i didnt buy it!!!! 0.5 stars out of 5 for me

  • Kassie

    I have to agree with Jamie, Ron, and John. DL is one of my favourite bands and they will forever be (and I’m only 17) no matter what you people say. If you want to bash a band, then go ahead, but seriously, get a better hobby. DL is one of the few bands from the 80s STILL making albums that SELL. If you want to criticize them and say that they sound the same, then go ahead, but you’re wrong. Listen to ACDC, listen to Nickleback. DL DID sound the same, for On Through The Night and High ‘N’ Dry. They changed a little for Pyromania and finally when Hysteria hit, it was totally different. They’re just rocking it out for as long as they can. That’s what this whole album is about. It’s about getting together and rocking it out one last time. Don’t bash them when you aren’t much better. I’d like to see half the people on here who bashed the band try to produce music like them!