I am a Def Leppard fan going at least as far back as Hysteria and maybe even to On Through the Night.
That said, I must admit to falling off the horse in the years since Adrenalize. Yes, I have Slang and X, but I don’t have Euphoria or the covers collection. Also, when I reach for Def Leppard I generally reach for the best of collections.
That brings me to Songs From the Sparkle Lounge, an album that, quite frankly, snuck up on me. I had no idea that they had even gone into the studio. I was under the impression that they were towards the end, perhaps doing the occasional tour. Obviously I was wrong.
This album is something of a mixed bag, as Def Leppard is definitely past their prime as a top of the pop charts kind of band. Still, Def Leppard is a band that is letting their maturity and experience shine through in an album that embraces their roots as much as it treads new ground.
When it comes to Def Leppard it is hard for me to be completely impartial. Their 80’s output had such a profound impact on me in my youth. When I look back on my personal history with music, Def Leppard is a big part of it. I remember when I first heard “Rocket” I knew I was in love, then I bought Hysteria (on cassette) off a classmate who couldn’t stand it (blasphemy!), and within minutes I had a favorite band for the first time in my life.
I listened to that tape over and over again. I swear, there was a time I could recite all of the lyrics, in order, for the entire album. Of course, my love extended backwards over Pyromania, High and Dry, and On Through the Night. All were great. So, when I listen to any new material from them it will invariably be compared to the glory years.
The first thing that jumped out at me, something that immediately turned me (unfairly) against the album, was the sound. It didn’t sound like Hysteria (or Adrenalize, or Slang). I don’t know why I was expecting it to. I am intelligent enough to know they have grown older and they have changed. Songs From The Sparkle Lounge is still a good album.
They have stripped away any expectations and rebuilt Def Leppard from the ground up. For better or worse, this feels like an album that all five guys put their heart and soul into. I don’t get the impression that they were looking to recreate the magic of the 1980s, or that they were looking to retake the pop charts. Songs From The Sparkle Lounge doesn’t target today’s youth audience. Instead, they focused their energies on an album filled with catchy tunes, great hooks, and targeted an audience of people just like themselves.
Def Leppard has always been known for high production values. Taking advantage of that, on this album there is a renewed focus on the guitars. Yes, guitars have always been an important part of the band, but they seem to be pushed more to the forefront here, creating this virtual wall of pop guitar sounds. Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell team up to create that wall, and they form a solid unit, backed by “the Rick’s,” (Allen on drums and Savage on bass). Leading them into battle, as always, is vocalist Joe Elliot.
Now, all is not wine and roses. Yes, this is a solid album with some good tunes, but it is also an album that does not stick with me once it is over. The songs are infinitely catchy while they are playing, but soon fade after the last note. The sound is definitely Def Leppard, but it seems to be missing something. It does not quite have the soul that I would like to here. Still, overall it is a solid album.
Bottomline.This is not the triumphant return of the Lep, but it wasn’t meant to be. This is an album with nice tunes that are easy to get into collected in an album that does not overstay its welcome, clocking in at a lean 39-minutes. If you are a fan of the band, you will want to give this a listen. Likewise, if you want a mature collection of rock tunes on the softer side, this may be right up your alley.Powered by Sidelines