Release Date: Apr 29, 2008
Record label: Mercury
Given that Def Leppard sounded so fun and revitalized on their 2006 covers album Yeah!, it was easy to hope that they would try to channel that same kinetic energy into their next set of original material, 2008's Songs from the Sparkle Lounge. And try they do on this tight set of 11 songs, pushing rhythms to the forefront in an attempt to kick up excitement, dipping into a Gary Glitter stomp on "C'mon C'mon," hitting harder than they have in years on the pummeling "Bad Actress," and revving up the guitars on "Hallucinate" so they mimic "Photograph," which is not the only time they allude to previous peaks, as "Only the Good Die Young" shimmers with harmonies straight out of Hysteria and "Nine Lives," a duet with country superstar Tim McGraw (the partnership isn't all that odd, considering Leppard's former producer Mutt Lange went country in the '90s with his wife, Shania Twain), rides a riff that is a kissing cousin to "Pour Some Sugar on Me. " All this effort is appreciated, especially when Songs is compared to the dull leaden grind of X, but the album is hampered a bit by having an immediate sound and elusive hooks; it's as if Def Leppard have created an exquisitely tailored suit but it's oversized, so the clothes hang funny on the model.
Granted, their heyday of popularity and relevance seems like forever ago, but there’s still something to be said for the Leppard. They continue to release music long after their videos stopped getting heavy rotation, and their loyal fan base stuck with them even through their adult pop phase. So it’s nice to hear that, despite ups and downs, they’re once again sounding as rocking as their former selves.