Def Leppard

Mercury Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


After Hysteria hit the stores, Def Leppard joked about how long it would take them to record a new album. In one interview, lead singer Joe Elliott said it would take five years. How little did he know....

Def Leppard could not have been in a worse predicament when Adrenalize came out. The most harrowing obstacle the Leps had to overcome was the death of guitarist Steve Clark. In the face of such a harrowing loss, they had to put on a happy face and sing about partying, puppy love and cutting loose. They also had to go without Robert John "Mutt" Lange, their producer who put the gloss in Hysteria and Pyromania. Instead, Lange took a distant executive producer role and left the producing to Mike Shipley and Def Leppard (big mistake).

Not a hint of sorrow from Clark's death makes it into Adrenalize. Instead, it's a shiny, bright showcase of Def Leppard's pop smarts. "Let's Get Rocked" explodes off right away. Rick Savage lays down a nice, bopping bass beat for Phil Collen to work around, and Joe Elliott's voice sounds as crisp and sharp as anything on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Pyromania and Hysteria. Though it may sound great, the lyrics sink what could have been the best song in Def Leppard's arsenal.

Alright, so Def Leppard was never meant to be on the lyrical level of say, Bob Dylan, but the band never wrote about a teenager refusing to mow the lawn and take out the trash. It's a feeble attempt at making a new teenage anthem. They did it with "Rock Of Ages", and they were able to bridge a small generation gap with "Pour Some Sugar On Me", but it doesn't work for them a third time. Most kids at this time were giving the teenage anthem award to song like "Evenflow" and "Alive".

For the first time in Def Leppard's career, their album sounded hopelessly dated. No amount of studio finesse could mask the fact that pop metal was dying a horrible death. To boost the album's sales, Def Leppard put stock in the once bankable power ballad. Once again, that approach failed them. "Tonight", "Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)" and "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad" all are your typical, standard ballads you would come to expect from a knock off Def Leppard band.

I admit, it's easy to take pot shots of the band right now. And I will fess up, Hysteria remained my all time favorite album in my teenage years. Honestly though, looking at what made Hysteria a great fluff masterpiece, you see what Adrenalize completely lacks in. First off, there's no single guitar hook that you can't get out of your head. There's no stadium thumping "Pour Some Sugar On Me" or genuine inspiration like in "Love And Affection".

Def Leppard learned from the weaknesses of Adrenalize and tried to update their sound style with Slang, their last release. Unfortunately again for the disaster-prone band, the sound that they tried to convert to (stripped down) was already becoming old. So, what's a band like Def Leppard to do? The music they made isn't what the audience now wants to hear. If they try to update their sound, they sound like they're hopelessly trying to fit into a music scene that has no room for them. My best advice for them is to either go the Vegas route ala U2 or go the Living Colour route (just plain pack it in). One thing is certain though, Adrenalize was the first serious misstep from a band that provided itself on being perfectionists. A misstep that the band has yet to recover from and, sadly, maybe they never will.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1997 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.