When it comes to reviewing the latest album by pop-metal maestros Def Leppard, I’m of two minds. On the one hand, at 43 years old, I want to be fairly critical and give an honest opinion. On the other, having seen the band live for the third time this past summer, it’s clear some of their songs will be forever etched in my mind, and as musicians they’re at the top of their game. So I’ve decided to review the eponymous Def Leppard as my current self and as the audience to whom Def Leppard probably mattered most, 15-year-old me.
43-Year-Old Self: Hello, younger self.
15-Year-Old Self: Hey old self. Hey, do you have flying cars and cool stuff in the future?
15YOS: Whoa, what’s a hoverboard?
43YOS: You know, like in the second Back to the Future movie—
15YOS: WHAT THE FUCK, THERE’S A SECOND BACK TO THE FUTURE MOVIE?
43YOS: Yeah and a lot of other stuff. ANYWAY. Def Leppard.
15YOS: Right. Well, I thought it was pretty good.
43YOS: On Def Leppard, the band that gave the world Pyromania and Hysteria covers a lot of the same ground, including a too-obvious retread of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” on “Are You Man Enough?” and what sounds like a rearrangement of their own “Pour Some Sugar On Me” spliced with boy-band melodies on “Let’s Go,” a weak opening to an album that does have some strengths.
15YOS: Uh, OK, but what did you think?
43YOS: A lot of the tracks start off strong, with a killer riff – such as “Broke ‘n Brokenhearted,” which calls back to Leppard albums like High and Dry — but descend into a generic rah-rah chorus. I found that disappointing.
15YOS: Well, I thought that one was pretty rockin’. And “Sea of Love” was great. Like, you don’t like a boy-band sound, whatever that is, but that song was just big chords and a chorus that, like, glowed.
43YOS: Well I hate to sound snobby, but I liked their older stuff better.
15YOS: Gee, THAT doesn’t sound snobby at all….
43YOS: Well, what did you like about this album? Not just what was “pretty good.”
15YOS: I’m guessing you don’t like ballads, either, but “We Belong” has to be the best one they’ve written since “Hysteria.”
43YOS: What are you basing that on?
15YOS: The fact that “Hysteria” may be great, but it’s just a little to fast to slow-dance to, like that time with [name redacted].
43YOS: [name redacted]? I don’t remember ever dancing with [name redacted].
15YOS: DUDE. How could you forget? I’m still thinking about it. But “We Belong” is just the right pace, and with the different band members singing lead vocals, and the huge chorus, man… what more could you ask?
43YOS: Lyrical depth.
15YOS: Or maybe you need to slow-dance more.
43YOS: All right, “We Belong” has some glossy harmonies, but Def Leppard has been doing that for ages. It’s not really new for them.
15YOS: So? I liked it. And if you wanted something different, what about “A Battle of My Own”? The way it starts off with that jerky acoustic riff, no drums, really fast, and then just explodes when they build up to the second chorus? Bam. That’s awesome. And it’s something they haven’t done before.
43YOS: Fine, that one is different. But again, too rah-rah. What is the battle of his own, anyway? We’re just supposed to stand up and cheer for… what?
15YOS: Can I ask you something? What is your favourite Def Leppard song?
43YOS: [thinks] …Probably “Rock, Rock ’Til You Drop.”
15YOS: Right, for its “lyrical depth,” I bet.
43YOS: Listen, you can’t pretend any of the songs on Def Leppard are as good as that.
15YOS: Why do they have to be “as good as” something else they already did? Why can’t they just be “good”? Because a lot of them are. “Wings of an Angel” is also a great song on this album. And “All-Time High” is as straight-ahead rock as they ever do, with a guitar solo that really is blistering. I hate that word for it, but it is. Plus, if you’re going to keep comparing them, why don’t you pick an old song that you didn’t like? Say:“Dangerous” is kinda boring, like “Armageddon It” was?
43YOS: Actually, the remix of “Armageddon It” has really grown on me over the years.
15YOS: Are you serious? Well then maybe in, what, 30 years you’ll think “Dangerous” is pretty okay as well.
43YOS: I doubt it. I’ll be 73 then.
15YOS: Holy shit. That’s like, Grandpa age. But hey, tell me you’re not still going to be listening to Pyromania in the old folks’ home.
43YOS: [sighs] Not gonna argue against that.
15YOS: So, Mr. Music Critic, what’s your favourite side of the new album?
43YOS: Albums don’t have sides anymore. It’s all digital now.
15YOS: Whoa. Then how do you know which side of the record you want to keep re-playing? Fuck. Never mind.
43YOS: Well, the bright side is now you can just skip over the songs you don’t like instantly and listen to the ones you do.
15YOS: That sounds kind of awesome. But also like you get used to skipping stuff that doesn’t grab you right away. If it’s a hassle to fast-forward, you sometimes just let the tape play. If you could have kept skipping “Armageddon It” how would it ever grow on you, right?
43YOS: Good point.
15YOS: And, what, does every band have to sound like their old self to do something good?
15YOS: Well, I thought this album sounded pretty Leppardish.
43YOS: If you include all their 1990s ballad-y stuff, sure.
15YOS: Okay, final opinion. Did you like Def Leppard?
43YOS: Eh, a bit. Some songs.
15YOS: Well I thought it was awesome. Not every song, but man, some are definitely going on my next mix tape. Thumbs up.
43YOS: Maybe it’ll grow on me.
15YOS: Stop skipping things, and it might.