A good musician friend of mine told me once that if I were ever in a liquor store (or a wine cellar for you connoisseurs), always look for a bottle of red wine made in California in 2001. Regardless of what wine it’d be, 2001 in his mind was considered a great year and has never been disappointed with a bottle. Much like a fine wine, if stored properly and over time, it will continue to taste great upon first open. However the flip side results if the wine is left out to go stale and taste like bland vinegar. Def Leppard’s newest offering, Songs From The Sparkle Lounge, feels like a fine wine that was left under the gaslight quite a bit too long.
Its been six years since the famous English metal’ers released their previous effort, 2002’s X. Right off the bat, the first song “Go” shows quite a bit of promise, as the band dabbles with some electronica-inspired moods. Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell’s guitar tones are chunky and thick and Joe Elliot’s vocals reach way back to their classic album Pyromania. However, the gaslight flicks itself on here and slowly begins to drain the soul of the album. The Tim McGraw duet “Nine Lives” follows afterwards and much like Tim McGraw, feels very country laden. After the promise of “Go,” “Nine Lives” seems to jump a little too far and miss it’s target. It does have potential to be a good crossover hit, but in the sense Def Leppard is musically known for, it’s too much of a departure from the rest of the album. Expect a line dance to it though, that aspect will be truly obvious.
“C’mon, C’mon” really brings the spirit of the band back and proves to be one of the catchiest, strongest songs on the album. Old fans will rejoice and newcomers will enjoy this one as the spirit of Steve Clark is alive and well on this track, bringing back memories of Hysteria. The tired ballad “Love” follows and quickly hits a low thud, especially following “C’mon C’mon.” If it were towards the bookend of the album it would work, but right after a killer rocker, it’s somewhat of a letdown.
The next few numbers “Tomorrow”, “Cruise Control,” “Hallucinate” and “Only The Good Die Young” (no not the Billy Joel song) all are average offerings at best, but nothing too special here. They’re a bit too cookie-cutter pop rock, and certainly no “Photograph.” The album ends with a pretty good kick-the-door-down rocker “Bad Actress” but quickly finds itself in the belly of the whale with “Come Undone.” The final track “Gotta Let It Go” sums up the entire album: Def Leppard should let this one go.
In a sense, there are some pretty cool ideas and tunes on Songs From The Sparkle Lounge, but for the most part, it seems to be a return to the band’s glory days in the mid-80’s. While there is no argument that their earlier stuff is awesome, this effort seems a bit forced. This is a good album to put on in the background; in other words, the soundtrack to a nice highway cruise, but unfortunately, that’s about it.