Release Date: Oct 30, 2015
Record label: earMUSIC
Def Leppard are in the depths of a middle-aged rut that has lasted over twice as long as their glorious youth did to begin with. Following a celebrated adolescence in which the band became one of the leading lights of the fluidly defined New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Def Leppard quickly established themselves as the most potent commercial act of that fledgling genre, tentatively breaking through with a pair of low-charting singles off of 1981’s High ‘n’ Dry before really hitting pay dirt with 1983’s seminal Pyromania, also known as the album that ultimately put hair metal on its way to becoming a chart-dominating force of nature. Adversity became an unwelcome bedfellow fairly early on, with the four year interim between Pyromania and its belated follow up Hysteria seeing drummer Rick Allen lose his arm while singer Joe Elliott seemed to permanently blow out his voice, and if that weren’t enough they’d later suffer the loss of guitarist Steve Clark, who died of a drug overdose in 1991 before the follow up to Hysteria could be completed.
Let’s get rocked: Sheffield’s finest return with their best album since their 80s heyday. Joe Elliott seems to have spent most of the past 30 years grumbling about how Def Leppard aren’t given the respect they’re due. He has a point – you don’t become the 27th biggest-selling British band of all time without doing something right. But credibility in the eyes of the cultural gatekeepers still evades them.
There are two ways to look at an eponymous album by a band well into its fourth decade of existence: it's either a rebirth or a summation. In the case of Def Leppard's 2015 album -- their eleventh studio set, arriving a full seven years after Songs from the Sparkle Lounge -- the record is most certainly the latter, a nifty encapsulation of the group's range, obsessions, and ambitions. At 55 minutes, Def Leppard feels nearly as sprawling as the hour-plus Hysteria -- one of the first albums to ever feel specifically designed to fill out the confines of a CD -- but where that 1987 classic pulsates with the arrogance of a band hungering to conquer the world, this 2015 set is distinguished by the casual authority of a band who remain a band solely for the love of it.
In the mid-Eighties, Def Leppard and genius producer Robert "Mutt" Lange sold an Everest-sized pile of records by making pop-metal at its most streamlined, glossy and, at times oddly beautiful (their dream-cheese masterpiece "Hysteria"). The band's commercial fortunes took a terminal hit when their partnership with Lange ended, but they've continued to doggedly release new records and search for ways to keep their legacy of crossover greatness alive — 2008's Songs From the Sparkle Lounge featured a collaboration with country star Tim McGraw. Their self-produced new one opens with "Let's Go," a proud, if somewhat beleaguered-feeling, callback to "Pour Some Sugar On Me," where singer Joe Elliott asks, "Do you really wanna do this now?" The next track, "Dangerous," answers that question with a hearty "sure, maybe," by cut-and-pasting the synthetic power-surge of old into a surefooted glam-blam rocker.