Def Lep Fans Experience Mass Euphoria

After an ill-fated foray into grunge's bleak-chic, Def Leppard return to classic sound.

Remember New Coke? The maligned flavor of the classic drink just didn't

sit right on the taste buds after we'd come to expect our customary

formula. Coke wisely returned to its classic taste and garnered respect

for admitting its mistake.

Likewise, when sugar-metal stalwarts Def Leppard revamped their sound

for their most recent album, Slang (1996), to reflect the current

crop of bleak grunge acts, the album didn't sit right with anyone.

Longtime fans lamented its lack of poppy flavor, and new listeners weren't

drawn to the band because it lacked the garage-rock authenticity

associated with the likes of Nirvana and Soundgarden.

So it's with a sigh of relief we find Def Leppard's latest album,

Euphoria, returns to the classic multilayered vocals and chiming,

distorted guitar melodies of such instantly recognizable '80s hits as

"Photograph" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me." With some assistance from their

longtime producer, the formulaic hit-maestro Robert John "Mutt" Lange

(AC/DC, Shania Twain, et al.), the workaholic group consciously sought

to imitate its former self. This sleek and pleasing LP proves that while

Def Leppard are a calculated and market-savvy entertainment business

operation, they also excel at pleasing fickle consumers with the audio

equivalent of a summer blockbuster action-thriller or a delightfully

sweet soft drink.

"Demolition Man" (RealAudio excerpt)

kicks things off with Joe Elliott's rapid-fire vocals announcing his

return to form, while a wall of guitars saturates the song's anthemic

pulse. The standout song — and not coincidentally, its first single,

"Promises" (RealAudio excerpt)

— smacks of the signature muted-note arpeggio guitars and

stadium-shaking drum thuds of "Photograph," the major Lep hit from 1983's

Pyromania. Often layering vocal tracks up to 100 times, Elliott's

larger-than-life harmonies glide atop the mellifluous chunk of guitarists

Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell. The irrepressible drummer, Rick Allen

— who rebounded from the loss of an arm in 1985 to show remarkable

adaptability to an electronic kit — shows off new flair for more

complex fills.

There are a few songs that deviate from the familiar Def format,

particularly the Prince-like funk of "All Night" (RealAudio excerpt).

But, without a doubt, the stadium-friendly multiplatinum hard-pop band

is back to what it does best — and that should have longtime fans

absolutely euphoric.