Def Leppard

Songs from the Sparkle Lounge

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Given that Def Leppard sounded so fun and revitalized on their 2006 covers album Yeah!, it was easy to hope that they would try to channel that same kinetic energy into their next set of original material, 2008's Songs from the Sparkle Lounge. And try they do on this tight set of 11 songs, pushing rhythms to the forefront in an attempt to kick up excitement, dipping into a Gary Glitter stomp on "C'mon C'mon," hitting harder than they have in years on the pummeling "Bad Actress," and revving up the guitars on "Hallucinate" so they mimic "Photograph," which is not the only time they allude to previous peaks, as "Only the Good Die Young" shimmers with harmonies straight out of Hysteria and "Nine Lives," a duet with country superstar Tim McGraw (the partnership isn't all that odd, considering Leppard's former producer Mutt Lange went country in the '90s with his wife, Shania Twain), rides a riff that is a kissing cousin to "Pour Some Sugar on Me." All this effort is appreciated, especially when Songs is compared to the dull leaden grind of X, but the album is hampered a bit by having an immediate sound and elusive hooks; it's as if Def Leppard have created an exquisitely tailored suit but it's oversized, so the clothes hang funny on the model. It's not that Songs from the Sparkle Lounge is devoid of hooks -- "C'mon C'mon" and "Nine Lives" are built around big hooks in the guitars and melodies -- but they don't hit as hard as the overall sound, which makes for a curious listen as the sound grabs hold but the songs don't quite follow through as, at their best, they're growers. They're also a bit of a mixed bag, with the power ballads never managing to take hold, but overall the album is song-for-song stronger than X, and it's helped out enormously by that tight, unified production that glosses over any deficiencies in the writing. And so it's a partially successful successor to Yeah!, following through on some of the overall feel and punch but lacking enough songs to truly bring it across the goal line.

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