Recommended by Charlie.
I've got something to say...
It's hard being cool. Or should I say it's hard to BE cool? Well, cool or not I have to recommend something I can stand behind, and this round I'm going with Def Leppard's 2015 (and still most current-- see, I am WITH IT) self titled release. Now everybody knows Def Leppard, but if you're like me you haven't paid much attention to their output in a couple of decades and change. My high point of fandom came in '83 or '84 when I would sport a three quarter sleeve Pyromania t-shirt on Fridays because it was my party shirt. Of course, my idea of partying in 8th grade consisted of wearing that shirt and listening to Pyromania on cassette. Iron Maiden's Piece of Mind and Ozzy's Bark at the Moon were also in heavy rotation, but I couldn't afford a t-shirt for every band I had a tape of.
This band's most recent release only passed my ears because it's lead track "Let's Go" was included on a CD sampler I got in Classic Rock magazine. Opening with a very processed vocal by vocalist Joe Elliot repeatedly asking "Do you really, really wanna do this now?" my initial reaction was, "I don't know. Really, really? Maybe?" What follows is a deconstructed "Pour Some Sugar on Me." Like really, really. Like wearing that Pyromania shirt inside out and backwards and calling it a new shirt. But all of sudden then it's not exactly that at all. During the breakdown the band pulls off a Brian May-esque climb Knebworth would have been proud of before sticking the landing right back into 1986. I found myself hitting repeat on the track for a week before I realized I needed to at least see what else the album had to offer.
It offers a lot obviously or we wouldn't be having this particular conversation. "Dangerous" is the perfect second song / single. Driving, hooky and you can kinda sing Photograph over the chorus. Next up is "Are You Man Enough?" which should have the parenthetical (To be my Girl) attached since that is what is being asked here. This could have been an embarrassment that sank the ship before it was fully launched if it wasn't so obvious the band is mining Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Dragon Attack", both of which could have been embarrassment in their own right except they're so friggin' cool. Side one (yes, I have it on vinyl) ends with "We Belong", a sure fire hit ballad on MTV in an alternate timeline that features all five members sharing lead vocals. Oddly, they all sound like Joe Elliot but I guess camaraderie was the point there.
Not every track is killer, but it's close enough for hand grenades, and lean enough even at 14 tracks that every song serves the album. While the band does spend a good amount of time prowling familiar trails, (and good for them, when "ON", no one is more Def than the Lep) they can still surprise. "Battle of My Own", a slinky acoustic intro, invokes quieter Soundgarden moments before culminating in what could be a louder Soundgarden moment. The final track, "Blind Faith" is a masterclass in patience and tension. Pretty and organic in the beginning before finding its way onto the Magical Mystery tour bus with Sir George Martin driving. The boys still manage to take a detour towards the quick release they have been foreshadowing the whole time. Think Aerosmith's "Seasons of Wither" or Led Zeppelin's "Rain Song" and then ask yourself if you thought they had THAT in them.
This might not have been the album that put them in the Hall of fame, but it's definitely a late career All-Star appearance that deserves a spin. So here's to Def Leppard, who beyond expectation have yet to burn out nor fade away! Links:
Let's Go official video
Dangerous official video