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Music Review: Def Leppard – Songs From The Sparkle Lounge

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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.

Mildly Recommended.

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About Draven99

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Isn’t it funny how we all make excuses for a band we love when they still haven’t returned to form or produced an album that showcases their true abilities.

    I personally feel that they recorded a lighter album so that Mr. Elliot could handle the vocal duties. When I saw them on TV he had some difficulty even with the new songs.

    All in all, I don’t care what all the die-hards are going to say about my comment… Def Leppard should just pack it in & retire OR come out with a real album. Perhaps get someone who can sing all those glorious Def Lep masterpieces from the 80’s & shine on some new material!

  • Lori

    I happen to love the new album. It’s not High n Dry, it’s not Hysteria, it’s not Slang, it’s Songs From the Sparkle Lounge. It’s the album they wanted to make. They aren’t teenage boys anymore, but grown men who have matured as has their music.

    If anyone saw the band recently on TV and noticed Joe was struggling, he was. He had an upper respiratory infection that caused them to cancel at least 6 shows and he was still recovering from it.

  • Tim

    “…When I saw them on TV he had some difficulty even with the new songs….”

    When I saw them on tv, the live performance was overdubbed with the studio album version of the song. Still think that Joe had trouble with the vocals?

  • http://www.myspace.com/cobwebsinmyminde Theo

    I have fond thoughts of Def Leppard and luckily I’m not a biased person…I’ve lived in sheffield most my life, my own band has rehearsed in the same factory Def Leppard used to, and I went to the same school as Rik Allen (although i’m not that old haha…he’d long since left). This album is a mixed bag, Go, Cruise Control & Bad Acress are good, Nine Lives & C’mon C’mon are painfull. I personally think that Euphoria was Def Leppard back to being Def Leppard!…big, cheesy and choruses you could sing after hearing the song just the once, I don’t dislike this album, but I do skip too many songs…roll on the gig with Whitesnake & Thunder coming up in the coming weeks (Whitesnakes new album is a belter!)

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    When I saw them on tv, the live performance was overdubbed with the studio album version of the song. Still think that Joe had trouble with the vocals?

    I wasn’t talking about “Dancing with the Stars”, though that is pretty sad and kinda proves my point that they probably can’t perform like they used to & keep in time with the dancers! BUT, I’m sure there will be more excuses even though I’m pretty sure they did actually play the second song of that set.

    They aren’t teenage boys anymore, but grown men who have matured as has their music.

    I guess,if that’s what you wanna call it! I personally feel that their classic stuff was ballsy ,energetic & talented and that’s why their on the map. Losing focus & dedication isn’t the same as maturing.

    I guess you should check out Maiden’s new material to get a clearer idea of what the maturing process is all about and believe me, I’ve called ‘em on their sh!tty releases as well(X Factor, Virtual XI)

  • Timothy Cook

    As I look at some of these comments that put DEF LEPPARD down, I see nothing but lies and words being said that has no truth whatsoever. Usually when people mock DEF LEPPARD, they do not know the entire picture of what’s really going on and they are very narrowminded, and they say things that are not true. Also they are usually, almost everytime, prejudice towards certain forms of music and DEF LEPPARD happens to one of them.When your prejudice towards a certain form of music, then what you have to say does not count mainly because a prejudice statement has no truth and openmindedness whatsoever. And DEF LEPPARD doesn’t want these kind of immoral people to be their fans especially when these immoral people lie about them with a very narrow mind.

  • leppardjane

    Thank you tim, I’m sure the band apprecites your words, I know I do.

  • Shawn C

    I just saw Def Leppard last night and Joe’s voice broke more than a few times – he really struggled in the beginning of the show.

    Once the band spent 15 minutes displaying their prowess on drums & guitar, Joe returned and the show became an amazing display of true Def talent!

    Even with this slight delay in the show – you gotta give a band credit where it’s due! They did an amazing show!

    I’ve listened to Def Leppard from YEARS back and you have to admire a band that can still fill an Arena to maximum capacity.

    The whole idea behind lip-synching? I wouldn’t have cared if they had (they’re in front of me and I hear their voices)but I know Joe was singing his butt off.

    The whole thing was great!

  • Shawn C

    I just saw Def Leppard last night and Joe’s voice broke more than a few times – he really struggled in the beginning of the show.

    Once the band spent 15 minutes displaying their prowess on drums & guitar, Joe returned and the show became an amazing display of true Def talent!

    Even with this slight delay in the show – you gotta give a band credit where it’s due! They did an amazing show!

    I’ve listened to Def Leppard from YEARS back and you have to admire a band that can still fill an Arena to maximum capacity.

    The whole idea behind lip-synching? I wouldn’t have cared if they had (they’re in front of me and I hear their voices)but I know Joe was singing his butt off.

    The whole thing was great!