Def Leppard 4Ever

[I found this album review from a year ago just hanging out in the "My Documents" folder on my computer. Let's not let it go to waste, shall we?]

Def Leppard's Yeah!: Hair Metal Lives on

I was never a fan of the hair metal bands of the 1980s. (Even if I were, I would never admit that in public.) But I can't deny the irresistible pull of such seminal songs in the genre as Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me," Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," and Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me." They rock enough to make me want to put on a wig and play air guitar while jumping on my bed.

However, I have not followed any of these bands' careers, and I couldn't tell you who's still together, who's doing what, and who's dead. And Def Leppard's first album in four years, Yeah!, would've just blended into the canvas of new releases had I not accidentally stumbled upon it on my Rhapsody music service, which informed me that the British rockers had produced an album of covers and take on the likes of Electric Light Orchestra and The Kinks—two bands that I am particularly fond of. So I decided to give Yeah! a spin.

Def Leppard's version of The Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset" is definitely the album's highlight track, twisting the dreamy ache of the original into an upbeat, electric guitar-laden anthem. Similarly, the band is most successful when it picks unexpected songs and Leppard-ize them, while at the same time shows respect (and even reverence) for the originals by delivering controlled and restrained vocals. Cases in point? A rockin' version of ELO's "10538 Overture," which has never sounded better; Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone"; David Bowie's "Drive-In Saturday"; Badfinger's "No Matter What; and David Essex's "Rock On," which was last butchered by late-'80s soap star/singer Michael Damian. Leppard lead singer Joe Elliott just sounds way more legit when he encourages us to "rock on."

When the band digs into the glam rock grab bag and pulls out such songs as Sweet's "Hellraiser" and T. Rex's "20th Century Boy," it's certainly less interesting because they don't (and can't) stray too far from the hard-rockin' originals. And a handful of tracks on this 14-song album do indeed suffer from sounds-too-much-like-the-original syndrome—but this is a small gripe for a group that makes hair metal relevant and fun long after its heyday.

—Reporting From Glendale, California

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