Def Leppard, "Songs from the Sparkle Lounge" (Bludgeon Riffola)
Closing in on 30 years as arena rock staples, give Def Leppard credit for keeping it fresh and somewhat surprising on their first studio album in six years.
There's quite a range here, from the nu-metal feel of the opening track "Go" (think Def Leppard-meets-Tool) to the duet with country superstar Tim McGraw on "Nine Lives." (Thanks again, Bon Jovi, for making ALL the rock bands skew country.) "C'mon C'mon" has a much more '70s feel, sounding like Cheap Trick playing Gary Glitter's "Rock 'N' Roll Part II."
But the best moment here comes on the ballad "Love" in which the band channels their inner Queen. From the opening acoustic riff that's very reminiscent of "Love Of My Life" to the melody that's more than a little similar to "Jealousy," the four-part wall-of-harmony that adorned so many Queen classics, and multi-layered electric guitar that could have been played by Brian May himself, this track is sheer audio joy.
"Hallucinate" is much more in the classic Def Leppard '80s vein, with a "Photograph"-like riff that would make this track equally at home on the classic "Pyromania" album way back in 1983.
"Songs from the Sparkle Lounge," named for a backstage area where band members go to write songs while on tour, is Def Leppard's best effort since "Pyromania," which is saying quite a bit.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: Some of the best rock songs involve putdown of spurned exes, and the fast-paced, drum-thumping "Bad Actress" certainly qualifies: "Can't sing, can't dance, can't fit in your pants, you're a bad actress!" Nice, trashy '80s vibe and lyrics guaranteed to raise a smirk.