Artist: Def Leppard
Album: Def Leppard
Release Date: 10/30/2015
Def Leppard are rock ‘n’ roll royalty—extravagant, accustomed to the finer things, and out of touch with their subjects. If the music-consuming public have not bread, Joe Elliott and company seem to think, then let them eat cake. And cake they deliver—big, buzzy, sparkling, pop-laced, late ’80s rock ‘n’ roll cake. At this point, almost 40 years into their career, no one can deny that they deserve their crown. But that doesn’t mean the huddled masses of their kingdom don’t roll their eyes a little when they make yet another royal decree.
Def Leppard is pretty generous to their smallfolk, though. Though Def Leppard, their 11th album, is their first in the 2010s, they have consistently put out new music every few years since 1980, when they first started. Likewise, their lineup has only changed a handful of times—drummer Rick Allen stayed with the band even after losing his freakin’ arm. The years have been relatively kind to singer Elliott’s voice, only taking some of his higher register, and on “All Time High,” closer “Blind Faith” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” clone “Let’s Go,” he even works around that. And as a band, age doesn’t seem to have touched them. Their still rocking pretty hard, popping pretty soft, and working their bring-on-the-chicks attitude like puffed-up satyrs.
That’s part of the problem, actually. The world has moved on from the ’80s, but Def Leppard has not. Def Leppard, named such because it culls musical style and attitude from each of the band’s previous albums without discrimination, is a string of artifacts from a recently bygone age, not sounding like an homage to the past but instead like a stasis. Def Leppard isn’t playing in their ’80s mode in an effort to try and bring it back, but because they don’t know what else to do. They make few missteps, and even manage to strike gold in a few spots (“Invincible,” the flawless “Wings of an Angel”), but Def Leppard might want to consider abdicating the crown. After all, they’re still (barely) ahead, and I’ve heard it’s good to quit while you’re ahead.
—N. Neal Paradise