I fucking love Def Leppard. I hit teensville at the same time that the Lep became world beaters. I remember buying Hysteria, I remember watching the In The Round VHS endlessly, I remember the classic BBC1 documentary. Now I’ve mentioned some things that The Kids will not understand, let’s look at where we are in 2023 with one of my favourite bands ever.
I am a month and a half away from seeing Joe and the boys at motherfucking Wembley Stadium, with another Kendall favourite Motley Crue. I’ve read lots of people online talking about Def Leppard as the hometown heroes, especially with tonight’s (22.05.23) triumphant Sheffield gig and Motley as the American outsiders. But then again these are the same people who have been slagging off Wolfgang Van Halen for ‘trading off of his name’. I saw a great response where he calmly said “It’s literally my name, you silly goose” which made me love him and I am looking forward to his Wembley moment.
Getting a new Def Leppard album only a year after Diamond Star Halos is something we could only dream of, but here it is and Drastic Symphonies takes the tried and tested route of adding an orchestra (or the best, in this case, the Royal Philharmonic) to some of our favourite songs ever. I have loved it when The Beach Boys, KISS and Metallica have done similar things, so I was ready to slap five stars on this sucker and ride it on home and then ONE BAD THING happened, but it is a REALLY BAD THING, so one whole star is lost. I know that if you listen to it on Spotify you can skip the REALLY BAD THING, but I am reviewing the physical version and I never skip things so…Let’s cover the great first, shall we?
I was totally surprised to hear Drastic Symphonies starting with Turn To Dust, a Kendall favourite from the woefully underloved Slang record. I really dig that record but it came out at the wrong time and got lost in the grunge shuffle, but to me, it is a classic. So hearing this amazing new version of one of its best songs really made me smile and ROCK. Following it up with Euphoria’s Paper Moon was another breathtaking decision. Fantastic, this is not just a throwback to all the known songs, there is not even a Let’s Get Rocked here, they are picking and choosing some of the best whether they are loved or unloved by the wider metal community.
Other lost gems? Love from Sparkle Lounge, fantastic. Goodbye For Good This Time from DSH, fantastic. But this is not a band trying to be clever, they know what fans want and they give us all those juicy big hits too. Animal was the first reveal for this record and still sounds great, Love Bites is my favourite Lep ballad and is made even more epic by the brilliant orchestral treatment. Bringing’ On The Heartbreak is as magical as ever. Hysteria and Gods Of War? Five stars. Always.
SO LET’S TALK ABOUT THE BAD THING.
Pour Some Sugar On Me is one of my favourite Def Leppard songs, whenever you hear it, you just explode with rock joy. They’ve covered it with Taylor Swift and it was still amazing. (I love Taylor, that was not meant as a diss, I just mean if you cover your own song with someone else, it might fail, ooh, hold tight…) 5ive were always talking about releasing a cover of it which would have made perfect sense. It’s important you know I am not gatekeeping or being precious when I say, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS, JOSEPH? SEE ME.
When Sugar drifted in, slowly and not so surely, I heard Joe’s slow and dreary vocal and my alarm went off. Emm Gryner joins him and I have never heard two singers duetting and sounding less happy to be there. A song I never could have described as dull was suddenly sepia dull. I was expecting the orchestra to blow the roof off and instead, it is an utter disappointment. If this was the first thing I heard, I would have never bought the album. Sure the rest is magic, but save yourself and skip this or lift the needle, no one needs this.
Fifteen songs, if it was 14, it would be a five star record. And I’d be saying “shame they did not include Pour Some Sugar On Me”. But this is what it is, that one disappointment has messed with my mind. I’ll be over here with Turn To Dust, getting ready to freak out at Wembley. Where we better get the proper version of the biggest Def Leppard anthem. “But Kenny, at least they didn’t fcuk up Let’s Get Rocked!” Don’t, just…don’t.