REVIEW: Def Leppard – Slang (2 CD edition)

Part 4 in my series of Def Leppard Slang reviews!  

Part 1:  “Slang”

Part 2:  “Work It Out”

Part 3:  “All I Want Is Everything”

SLANG FRONT

DEF LEPPARD – Slang (1996 Mercury 2 CD edition)

One day in the early 2000’s, I was at work, and had this album playing.   This guy was in the store, that actually worked at the HMV.  As soon as “Truth?” came on, he approached me.

“I can’t believe you’re playing this album.  This is great.  I don’t know anybody else who really knows this album at all.”

That’s the way Slang went for Def Leppard.  It came out to disappointment from the types who want to hear the same album over and over again.  (They were obliged on Euphoria).  I really dug Slang, then and now.  If anything, today I think it might be  a tad ballad-heavy.  I still love it, and I am excited that Def Leppard plan on releasing a deluxe edition with bonus tracks soon.  In the meantime, I have my original limited edition 2 CD set that came with a bonus disc called Acoustic in Singapore.

“Truth?” is a thunderous opener, laden with modern sounding samples and rhythms.  Even better is the hypnotic “Turn to Dust”.  Although it moves slow, it has loads of exotic atmosphere and instrumentation.  Neither of these songs sound like old Def Leppard.  There are major changes, including acoustic drums, darker tones and a noticeable lack of shout-along gang vocals.

It’s still the same spirit though.  There’s an obsessive attention to detail, layers of backing vocals, and tasty choruses.  It’s just 1996’s version of those things.  Listen to the title track, “Slang”, for example.  It doesn’t sound like anything Leppard have done before, but you can see it as “Sugar” a decade later if you like.

“All I Want Is Everything” is another personal favourite, a great ballad but again unlike what Def Leppard has done before.  It has a certain power to it, without being loud and obnoxious.  It has a plaintive quality and a fantastic chorus.

Next is “Work It Out” , a contribution from “new kid” Vivian Campbell.  It is absolutely loaded with cool guitar squeeks and squonks, no wankery, but a new kind of guitar heroism.  These little adornments are there in the mix waiting to be discovered, under suitably thick drones of rhythm guitars.  I love this song, which really proved to me that Leppard had successfully adapted their sound to the mid-90’s.  A shame it didn’t sell.

Phil’s “Breathe A Sigh” is one that threw a lot of people for a loop.  Either Spin or Rolling Stone (I forget which) compared it to TLC.  Indeed, loops make up a large part of the percussion parts, and the band seem to be trying R&B on for size.  What keeps it Def Leppard are the layers of droney guitars in the back of the mix, and the immaculate vocal choirs.

Interestingly, Slang was stacked with four singles in a row, “Breathe A Sigh” being the final single.  This does not mean the album is out of ammunition.  “Deliver Me” brings back the heavy.  Leppard In Chains?  Def Temple Pilots?  Not one of the best songs, “Deliver Me” at least balances some of the softer material.  Better is “Gift of Flesh”, a driving riff rocker with some slammin’ drums from Rick Allen.  Phil wrote this one.  I bet it would have been smokin’ live if they ever played it.

This fades directly into a lush but quiet ballad called “Blood Runs Cold”.  I could imagine some old-timey fans running away in fear that their nuts would shrivel, at the sound of this one.   I love this song, but I’m not sure it needed to be followed by yet another ballad, “Where Does Love Go When It Dies”.  Although not a single, “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” was recently dusted off by the band as part of their recent acoustic medley.  It is more upbeat than the previous song, and has a folky campfire quality.  It also gives the album a sense of flow: an upturn before the dramatic closer.

“Pearl of Euphoria” is that dramatic closer, which returns the listener to the dark, powerful tones that we began with.  Leppard don’t often reflect a strong Led Zeppelin influence, but you can definitely hear some “Kashmir” here.  Not only is Rick Allen laying down a Bonham-esque groove, but some of the guitar bits flying in and out of the speakers remind me of the sound collage section in “Whole Lotta Love”.  It’s a great closing song.

The Acoustic in Singapore disc was a limited edition run, but since the album didn’t sell well you can find them quite easily.  This six song disc was recorded in late ’95.  Both discs were co-produced by Pete Woodroffe.  Some songs work really well acoustically.  “Armageddon It” works surprisingly well, a fresh summery version.  Some were acoustic originally, like “Two Steps Behind”.  It’s cool to have but certainly not essential to your enjoyment of Slang.

As for my enjoyment of Slang?

4/5 stars!

48 comments

      1. The only DL I own is that single you gave me, so… I wasn’t really waiting for anything. I didn’t even know I needed to own it until you just said so. ;) Still, for $2, that’d be quite alright by me.

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      1. Euphoria was the most disappointing thing they ever put out I think. X wasn’t great but at least they were trying something new. With Euphoria they tried to do classic Def Lep so the expectations were higher. There was a few good songs, as always, but still really disappointing.

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        1. For me, X was even more disappointing. It wasn’t the trying something new — it was the new that they tried. Max Martin and all that stuff. I rarely listen to it.

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        2. I know what you mean, but after Euphoria I guess my expectations for X were pretty low whereas I was pretty pumped for Euphoria coming out. It’s easy to understand how they could have went the X route and it turned out to be shite whereas with Europhia it was like they weren’t even good at being Def Leppard anymore!

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        3. For me, I was NOT pumped about Euphoria. T-Rev and I were both into Slang. One day he came home with a promo sheet on the new Def Leppard. It said:

          “First came the Pyromania…
          Then came the Hysteria…
          Next is the Euphoria!”

          Right there, they lost me. I knew it was suck from that.

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        4. The first time I ever heard that was Crazy Nights. Then the album came out. I was like, “Seriously? You think this is like Destroyer?” Nikki Sixx is also guilty. “It’s like back to our first album.”

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        5. Personally, I really liked Euphoria. I loved the mix between 70’s glam as Sweet and T-Rex, with the classic Leppard sound. X, howvever, was a piece of crap and the only really bad Leppard album ever. Max Martin’s contribution wasn’t major at all and not the reason the album sucked, the overall feel was the reason, the way I see it.
          About Max Martin, did you know that he was once the singer for the funk / hard rock band Its Alive? He was called Martin White then, but his real name is Martin Sandberg. The album is called Earthquake Visions and it’s a killer album. His songwriting skills were showing already back then.

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        6. I knew nothing about Max Martin at all beyond the pop stuff, so thanks for the education!

          I just cannot get into Euphoria. I’ve given it plenty of tries over the years, but something about it just does not appeal to me. The overall feel of X was very, very wrong for Def Leppard, for sure.

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  1. Great review. I really love this album. As you wrote, it might not sound like the Leppard we knew by then, but big deal, both songs and production here is awesome. The title track is a fantastic party stomper, just like Sugar was, same but different, if you will. Breathe A Sigh must be one of Leppard’s best ballads ever and I love Work It Out – it sounds a lot like Scottish band Gun, if you’ve ever heard of them. And have they ever sounded as heavy as GIft Of Flesh before? I’m not into grunge, but Deliver Me I think really kills.
    Even though I believe that, apart from X and the unnecessary covers album Yeah, Def Leppard has never released a bad album, Slang was the last truly GREAT album they released to this day. Songs From The Sparkle Lounge was close but was a bit too uneven, I think.

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    1. Yeah, close but uneven. When I play Sparkle Lounge today, I always come back to two songs (Go, and Gotta Let It Go), and I wish the rest of the album had that power. I think they have another great album in them.

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  2. Sorry to spam you review, Mike, but it needs to be said that the guitarplayer in Its Alive is Per Aldheim who co-wrote a lot of stuff with Martin, both for all the Britneys and boy bands but also the song on Lepard’s X. And here’s another video.

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      1. …and there are much better songs on their album. If you enjoy these two, you’ll love the album. See if you can find it anywhere.

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  3. Alright, I’m a few months late to the game on this, but I stumbled on your blog trying to find any info on the expected deluxe edition of Slang, now due out in January.

    To answer a question in your post, “Gift of Flesh” was played live on the Slang tour. They opened at Pine Knob outside of Detroit (now DTE Music Theater) with “Gift of Flesh,” but that’s the only song I remember of the whole show. Damn shame, as I’d put the Slang up there with Hysteria and High N Dry as their best work.

    One item missing from the review, and it could be because it was only on the Japanese version, is a review of “Move With Me Slowly.” It may have been a b-side, and is on the full CD I have (and signed by Phil, no less). It’s a mid-tempo kind of ballad with the absolute best guitar work Phil Collen has ever laid down on a Def Leppard song. Damn shame it wasn’t put out.

    All in all, though, solid review. I agree that Sparkle Lounge was good… but not quite up to par. Phil’s Manraze project has been turning out better Leppard music than Leppard, leading me to believe the problems for fans that want a good, loud, Lepp album are twofold: Rick Savage and Joe Elliott.

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    1. Hey Mike, thanks for the comment! I did cover Move With Me Slowly, on the CD single on which it appeared (I think “Slang”?) because that’s how I own it.

      I’m really looking forward to the deluxe. January can’t come too soon. I’m still waiting for a tracklist. I hope it’s not all tracks that I already own on the singles. I spent a lot of time/money collecting those singles!

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    2. Here it is for you:

      “Move With Me Slowly” is a non-album track, maybe you’d call it a ballad, I dunno. It’s soulful, and there’s some really elegant guitar work going on here. I don’t know what’s Viv and what’s Phil, but all the playing here is soulful, bluesy and perfect. It’s songs like this — a B-side! — that prove what awesome songs this band can write. If this song had come out in, say 1990 instead of 1996, it would have been hallowed Def Leppard, another hit for the record books. According to the liner notes, this would have been the Japanese bonus track on their edition of Slang.

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      1. Well there is some liner notes from Joe. But it’s just one of those “personal recollection” type things. And only a couple of pages.

        Interesting that Deke called it an extended edition! That would be a better name. It is definitely extended. “Deluxe” no, “extended” yes.

        And I see that the band are reportedly adopting the Slang approach for their next album. Interesting…

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  4. The packaging sounds disappointing especially for them since they actually own all the rights to Slang! Like c’mon guys …but they are now on a good run with the Ded Flatbird (Viva Hysteria)release(that audio of there old songs is gold!)..along with Undefeated which is a very strong track which I also hope it results in a strong release of new material….

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    1. The future is bright. Of course they could easily blow it with a new album, they have done it before. We’ve cut them some slack in the past. Everybody knew Adrenalize was the weakest album yet, but we cut them some slack because of all the tragedy in the band and the loss of Steve Clark.

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  5. Yeah man the Clark riffs were gone….my younger bro said it best to a certain point . When Clark died so did the band which I think in hindsight he carried a huge hand in writing ,my bro has no interest in them anymore even though they have put out some decent stuff….
    He did dig the Adranalize tour that I dragged him to when he was 15….

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  6. Blabbermouth posted a article about the reissue of Slang on its website and the comments from readers are brutal….hahaha….lot of people have missed the boat on this one…

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    1. That’s funny Deke, but where else were people most likely to be brutal on it than Blabbermouth. By the way if you care about such things iTunes have two unreleased tracks of their own.

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    1. Deke, I will say that HMO and I went over in great detail all of the iTunes bonus material. Some of it is generally worth having — songs like When Saturday Comes. However I have all but two of the iTunes bonus tracks already on my singles. So in total iTunes really only have two true exclusive songs. They are the demos of All I Want Is Everything and Move With Me Slowly.

      All I Want Is Everything is really different, earlier on it was much more a traditional Def Lep power ballad.

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  7. Tou really have no need for this bro,whereas I do cuz I just have the original Slang release and that’s it but for me Slanf is one of there best…love the drum mix on it plus of course the songs!
    Why the masses don’t get it ?? Of course the masses want the Pour Some Sugar Tunes….but you know Slang was great and than a few step backs so to speak with Euphoria and X….

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    1. Drum mix on this was great man. I certainly did my part in 96 trying to sell this thing. I played the shit out of it but too many people said, “It doesn’t sound like Def Leppard”.

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  8. Slang is great apart from Deliver Me which always grates as it seems to lean too close to a grunge knock-off and I generally can’t stand songs that start with “sometimes I feel…” type lyrics. I don’t give a shit what someone might feel sometimes as it usually means it’s going to be a big whinge, which is what Deliver Me sounds like.

    I remember buying this on the first day and before I had a chance to play it, my good pal rang me to say that the album was fucking atrocious and a complete disappointment. I thought that Slang as a lead-off single was OK and got worried about the album, but luckily, I had a different view on it and couldn’t resist stuff like Gift of Flesh or Pearls of Euphoria or even, Breathe a Sigh :)

    The B-Sides were all generally stonkers too.

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