Review: Def Leppard – Slang
I was initially going to avoid reviewing this and just enjoy it, but after several spins of the Slang re-issue this week and it being Valentines days and all, I figured my first love in music deserved my attention. Sending the actual members of Def Leppard a card is considered ‘psychotic’ by those around me so I hope a review will suffice.
Slang came our four years after I had first heard Def Leppard. Up till the point their previous albums, On Through The Night, High ‘N’ Dry, Pyromania, Hysteria and Adrenalize had all pushed their sound further and further towards a standardized, polished pop direction with layer upon layer of vocals, guitar fiddly bits, synths and all things eighties. Unfortunately for Def Leppard and many, many other colossal bands of that era, the sher volume of hack amateurs in the genre and grunge movement shifted people’s attention towards a more solemn, displaced sound. Plaid shirts, problems and anger replaced the mullets, spandex and sing along fun that came before it. Where to go?
Leppard served out the early wave of Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden hysteria (no pun intended… well maybe just a little) by touring the Adrenalize album to packed arenas and keeping fans interested with the Retro Active B-sides albums which sparked the massively successful ‘Two Steps Behind You’. It would be three years before Leppard would remerge and like Metallica, they were barely recognizable when they did.
Slang was a kick in the ass to Leppard. The way they recorded, the sound, the style were all massively different to their tried and tested formula. No more years of recording and time apart. Leppard hit the studio and wrote/recorded like never before. The layers of production that had grown and grown over the previous three albums was replaced by a more raw sound that exposed Leppard to their audience in a way that hadn’t been heard since On Through The Night. The giant guitar riffs, duelling solos and plunges were replaced by melodic leads that allowed the matured lyrics and themes to hit the surface.
Songs like ‘Work It Out’, ‘Breath A Sigh’, ‘All I Want is Everything’ and ‘Where Does Love Go When It Dies’ brought a level of seriousness and reflection that was rarely heard before. No attempt was made to turn each song into a pop single, instead the band weren’t afraid to make a stamp with these tracks and open themselves up to a new direction. Turn To Dust, Truth, Slang and Gift of Flesh brought some of the rock back into the picture and but again showed Leppard were not rehashing their glory days by peddling out copies of ‘Animal’, ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’. The songs were darker, more blunt and perfect.
Musically the grouped changed as well. Eastern and meditranian includeces can be heard all over the record. Styles similar to R&B, alternative rock and even some grunge can be heard throughput giving additional depth and diversity.
Slang initially divided fans. While critics worldwide applauded Def Leppard, their followers missed the larger than life anthems. However the years have been kind to Slang, even from some of the most ardent corners of the Lepp base. It’s endearing credibility, it’s ecliptic mix of styles and warm collection of songs make it an interesting journey to bask in. After Slang, the band reverted temporarily to their older sound for the Euphoria album and the Slang sound was never explored further. Who knows where it could have gone, whether it would have improved or lost its meaning; but for one point in the middle of the nineties, Def Leppard shook things up in a way that would have terrified most established bands. They braved a committed, but traditional fan base, a hostile world of peers and a new youthful energy that’s primary aim was to destroy everything Leppard had championed in the previous decade and they came out swinging. Slang has stood the time and every fan should take the time to remind themselves of that.