REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Slang” (1996 UK single)

Part Nineteen of the Def Leppard Review Series

Alternate review:  “Slang” Souvenir pack single

DEF LEPPARD – “Slang” (1996 UK Mercury single)

Kobayashi Maru:  The no-win scenario.  By 1996 the musical landscape had drastically shifted.  Five years of musical upheaval had left many bands in the dust, but Leppard were one of the few survivors.  They simply could not rest of their laurels, and they knew that.  Had Def Leppard come out with another soundalike album in 1996, they would have been accused of retreading the outdated and obsolete 1980s.

We knew Leppard were interested in a more organic way of recording after being locked in studios for so many years.  Their interest in acoustic music was now expressing itself in songs like “Can’t Keep Away From the Flame”, a truly excellent if obscure Japanese Vault bonus track that was also included as a B-side from the new album Slang.  If a track this solid was considered a B-side, you could imagine what the new album was going to be like.  It was a positive sign.  But the album wasn’t going to be acoustic.  Where were Leppard headed this time?

A clue was revealed by the title track, released as a single in May 1996.  Def Leppard had returned to experimentation.  Just as Hysteria was different from Pyromania, now they finally had something just as different from Hysteria.

With hip-hop beats and a big guitar, “Slang” shocked the faithful.  Rick Allen was starting to incorporate acoustic drums back into his kit and they sounded fresh and hot.  All the old Leppard ingredients were shaken n’ stirred, and the new concoction was an acquired addiction.  It’s an upbeat celebration of the new Leppard.  They had indeed gone outside the box.  They had to.  And they did it with creativity and integrity whether you like it or not.

This UK single came with three acoustic bonus tracks, all recorded for the BBC.  Continuing their acoustic side road, “Animal” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” fare well in acoustic form.  Other acoustic versions were coming, on a limited 2 CD edition of Slang (which we will discuss when we get to that disc of CD Collection Vol 2).

The real treat of this single is the acoustic version of “Ziggy Stardust” (also included on CD Collection Vol 3).  A brilliant take, in fact.  Most bands sound like jackasses trying to cover classic Bowie.  Not Def Leppard.  Their acoustic version has just as much edge as an electric take would.  Joe Elliott’s penchant for Bowie will become relevant a few years down the road, when we take a detour on a Cybernautic misadventure.

“Sugar” and “Animal” acoustic at the BBC remain exclusive to this single.  Worth tracking down.  Though ultimately there are other recordings out there, these are just as good and collectible as ever.

4/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault
  18. Video Archive

Next:

20. Slang

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