Def Leppard

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Pyromania

Def Leppard - Pyromania ©1983 Mercury
1. Rock Rock (Till You Drop)
2. Photograph
3. Stagefright
4. Too Late For Love
5. Die Hard The Hunter
6. Foolin'
7. Rock Of Ages
8. Comin' Under Fire
9. Action! Not Words

Back in the day, way back when, in the heady days of Ronnie Raygun's first term, this band was absolutely dangerous. Mothers would warn their children that unless they were good, the drunken bastards from Def Leppard would come and get them…and the good children would settle right down and mind their mothers; however, the bad kids, those rebels who sported mullets and strategically ripped acid-washed jeans, would just cry "Bitchin'!" and headbang like Beavis. Rock on, wild child.

Pyromania was a badass disc, albeit a platter consisting of virgin vinyl rather than plastic and aluminum, back in the year of its release--1983. It defined the cutting edge of the burgeoning cock-rock revolution and launched five tracks that still get airplay on classic rock stations. Of those five, three ("Rock Rock," "Photograph," and "Rock of Ages") are superb examples of what arena hormone rock should be. Sadly, two similarly rockin' tunes, "Stagefright" and "Action! Not Words," which are two of this reviewer's favorite tracks on the album, didn't become radio staples but are equally barn-burning odes to gettin' some. The other two radio-friendly tracks, "Too Late for Love" and "Foolin'," don't approach the excellence of the their companions but are still pretty darn okay. On the negative side, the fifth, eighth, and tenth songs tend to drone--and what's up with that annoying drum loop album finale?--and the rhymes in the obligatory power ballad, "Too Late for Love," are truly cheesy.

Overall, Pyromania is a darn good AOR album, chock-full of Eighties rock hits. If you like classic rock radio, pick it up. If you don't, don't.

Review by Jonathan Arnett

Review date: 05/2000

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Hysteria

Def Leppard - Hysteria ©1987 Mercury
1. Women
2. Rocket
3. Animal
4. Love Bites
5. Pour Some Sugar On Me
6. Armageddon It
7. Gods Of War
8. Don't Shoot Shotgun
9. Run Riot
10. Hysteria
11. Excitable
12. Love And Affection

Man, I really dug this album from the instant I borrowed a fifth-grader's pirated cassette during a long school bus trip when I was in the eighth grade…it was the baddest thing I'd ever heard. And, unlike many albums from that time period, the music still holds up today. The problem is that Hysteria is one of those ubiquitous albums that hordes of teenagers played incessantly for months. That's why I can't listen to it more than three times a year. Even so, Hysteria remains Def Leppard's magnum opus and is one of the best quasi-metal albums ever released.

Part of the appeal of Def Leppard's brand of rock is that their best tunes are informed by an infectious pop influence. Of course, a slew of rockin' riffs, unique guitar-vocal harmonies, more than a touch of whammy bar, sparkling production by Mutt Lange, and a beefed-up drum kit didn't exactly hurt, either. Ironically, Rich Allen, the one-armed drummer, sounds better on this album than on any of his previous, two-armed, appearances.

There isn't a clinker on Hysteria except for "Love Bites," which truly bites. (Sorry, but I can't resist a good pun, especially when it's TRUE.) The first six cuts, all of which received radio play, are the strongest on the album, with the exception of the aforementioned execrable track four, which some fool must like, 'cuz it was in heavy rotation on eMpTyVee. The video for "Animal" also was in heavy rotation, but I like to think of that as the idiot program directors getting something right for once.

I genuinely like side one, so I won't take up space describing all the songs in detail, but my mostest favoritest are "Animal," which runs the stylistic gamut from power ballad to sing-along rocker to ultra-distorted heavy metal, and "Armageddon It," which is just plain fun. I dare you not to tap your foot the first time you hear it and double-dare you not to sing along or at least mouth the words the second time. You'll know the lyrics by then.

On the second side, I particularly enjoy the last three tunes, "Hysteria," "Excitable," and "Love and Affection," even though the title track and last track are power ballads, which I generally hate just on principle. Regarding the remaining three cuts, "Gods of War" sounds dated; "Don't Shoot Shotgun" and "Run Riot" are better than the majority of the songs in Def Lep's backcatalog but they don't quite match the tone of the rest of Hysteria.

Although rhetorical tradition demands that whatever improves with age must be compared with a bottle of fine wine, a better analogy for Hysteria is a wheel of Cheddar cheese. It was tasty when fresh, so we gorged ourselves and now the flavor makes us ill. However, if we allow the wheel time to ripen as we recover from our gluttony, in time we will be able to appreciate the cheese's unique bouquet.

On the other hand, a good analogy for Def Leppard itself is a gallon of milk left in the sun: It was once good for you, it can only make you sick now, and it doesn't show any signs of improving. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Their best album is twelve years old and we're still waiting for a halfway-decent successor…

Excuse me, I must return Hysteria to the cupboard where it can age for a few months before I play it again.

Review by Jonathan Arnett

Review date: 07/1999

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