Def Leppard doesn’t get much publicity, so it might come as a surprise to hear that these Brits — the first ’80s hard-rock band to gain mainstream pop acceptance — are one of the biggest-selling, most influential groups on the planet. Pyromania, their third album, was released in 1983 and sold multiplatinum; four years later, with their fourth, Hysteria, they went nose to nose with Michael Jackson, selling 10 million copies and rivaling Bad on the charts.
Adrenalize, Def Leppard’s fifth album, will no doubt sell another 10 million or so. Even without guitarist Steve Clark, who died accidentally last year of a combination of drugs and alcohol, they continue to deliver a voluptuous sound, offering amiable tunes while showing just enough grit to prove they aren’t wimps. ”Let’s Get Rocked” is easygoing, with a bit o’ shuffle, and a bit o’ stomp, while ”Tonight” is one of those rare hopeful ballads that manages not to be cloying. There are a couple of rip-roaring rockers: ”Personal Property” cuts through Def Lep’s lush, seamless sound with a refreshingly straightforward simplicity, and ”Tear It Down” has a titillating touch of danger without becoming downright mean.
The secret to Def Leppard’s success, in fact, may well lie in the band’s politeness: This album, for all its brashness, is about as polite as hard rock gets. ”Make Love Like a Man” sums it all up. It’s one of those bombastic metal anthems, but instead of pummeling your eardrums, it eases past them, thanks to Def Leppard’s patented melodic guitars and engaging good taste. This is a nice bunch of guys. They take great care with their music, don’t get in your way, never, ever do anything to piss you off — and somehow they’re able to do all that without boring you to death. B