For Aaron’s KMA review of this same album, click here!
DEF LEPPARD – Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (2008 Deluxe edition, Japanese version)
Could it be? The band who I once wrote off with the Euphoria album, followed by the dismal X, actually came back with something approximating a rock album! And not a bad rock album at that!
The band say that doing the covers album Yeah! revitalized them. Maybe. Personally I thought the covers album sucked, and that the dozen or so bonus tracks available elsewhere were way better than the actual album they released. Whatever. That was then and this is now, inside the Sparkle Lounge.
Terrible title, although I liked the single-disc cover art quite a lot. We know Def Leppard are more of a glam band than a metal band. The problem is, they were such a great metal band! High ‘n’ Dry is a masterpiece of riff-rock. Anyway, if you can forget High ‘n’ Dry, On Through The Night, or even Pyromania, you can get into Sparkle Lounge for what it is: A strong ballad-free return for one of the most beloved rock acts of the last two decades. Even Joe Elliot decided to show up this time, and sing to the best of his ability.
Very few weak tracks, lots of strong ones. “Go”, “Love”, “Hallucinate”, “Tomorrow”, “Only The Good Die Young”, “Bad Actress”…there is some serious fire happening here on these tracks! But the band saved the best new song for last. “Gotta Let It Go” has a riff and melody that fit right in with Def Leppard’s earlier sound. Only the occassional drum programs betray the thunder.
One song that I would call a weak track is the single “C’Mon C’Mon”. In my review from the 12″ vinyl single, I called it a “crap song”. It’s a shameless T-Rex rip-off, and also a Def Leppard rip off. Next!
Japanese bonus tracks are disappointing in the sense that they are not different songs, just different mixes. “Nine Lives” appears without Tim McGraw (this is my preferred version as nu-country is like kryptonite to me and would probably kill me if I was overexposed). “Love” appears as a powerful piano version, in some ways superior to the original, but turning it into a ballad dilutes the purpose of this album.
I have no comments as to the SHM-CD. It sounded the same to me. I guess these things are supposed to last longer? The DVD includes the music video for “Nine Lives” (yuck), an album commentary and a “behind the scenes” feature. For me, the all-region NTSC DVD contents and the lacklustre packaging don’t really justify the existence of a “deluxe edition”.
So, whatever went right, this is the best Def Leppard album since the criminally underrated Slang in 1996. It could be the heaviest album since Pyromania. It’s far from perfect, but the good news is you can play it in the car with the windows down and nobody will laugh at you.