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There is a lot to be said about the musical climate of the early 90s, but one thing that is pretty clear from the start is that the 80s didn't quite let up until a couple years after January 1, 1990. It is true that a number of bands out of Seattle were starting to make significant waves, but several older established acts were still delivering up some respectable studio output. Be this as it may, Def Leppard entered the 90s with a notably miscalculated misfire that became known as "Adrenalize", an album that falls a good bit short of what most would expect from such a title. One can't help but reminisce on a similarly lackluster turn of events with Queensryche's rather rocky ride into the early 90s, spearheaded by a similarly scaled back and lighter rocking character than the already less metallic material of their later 80s offerings. Nevertheless, while the old timers from Seattle blew it by getting a bit too stylistically convoluted, Def Leppard made the opposite mistake and dumbed things down just a bit too much.
For sake of historical context, it is important to note that the exodus of Mutt Lange from the producer's chair did not radically changed the band from the hyper-slick sound that came about on "Hysteria". As odd as it may seem, the ebb and flow of this album is much more commercial than even its predecessor, featuring a much more restrained vocal persona out of Joe Elliott in place of the screaming maniac that made "Pyromania" an interesting pivot into hard rock territory while still maintaining some semblance of the band's NWOBHM roots. Likewise, the riff work is much more formulaic, predictable, and occasionally banal, perhaps in part due to the absence of input from then deceased guitarist and founding member Steve Clark. Interestingly, the one area where the band actually ups the ante from past efforts is the lead guitar department, as Phil Collin manages to churn out some of the most technically impressive solos in his career. Most of these lead breaks naturally stay well within the borders of typical commercial fair length wise, but the spectre of the 80s guitar shredder all but manifests in the flesh in every single song.
Ultimately, this album's fatal flaw is that it tends to play it way too safe, going back to the semi-ballad formula that scored them a mega-hit with the previous album's title song "Hysteria" too many times, and mostly contrasting it with less intricate and memorable rehashes of the mid-tempo arena-oriented approach of "Pour Some Sugar On Me". While not quite the pain inducing affair that they are often made out to be, "Let's Get Rocked", "Make Love Like A Man" and "Stand Up" just have no real staying power and largely fall back on gimmicky lyrics that lack the punch and wit of their equivalents on previous albums. The more overt ballads in "Heaven Is" and "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad" plunge even further down the tubes and begin channeling the vapid pop rock character of several iconic early 90s fluff artists, falling just a couple steps shy of Michael Bolton territory. Granted, the guitars are a bit more raucous than a typical Top 40 affair and Joe Elliott hasn't quite morphed into the dead paper-weight vocally that he is today, but these songs just fall absolutely flat.
Remarkably, this album has a couple of saving graces that actually make the album worth owning, though at a highly discounted price. They say nothing will spurt creativity like a dramatic turn of events, and the recent demise of Steve Clark unearthed arguably the greatest song of Def Leppard's career after "Pyromania", if not their greatest of all time. "White Lightning" basically sounds like a leftover song from "Hysteria" from a production stance and channels a similar vibe of celebratory chorus work and guitar majesty. But it has been stretched out and loaded up with extras to the point of becoming a veritable extravaganza of passion and disquiet as it grooves along on top of a droning bass line that listens dangerously close to Sabbath's "Heaven And Hell". The real goods, however, are delivered by Phil Collin here as he channels his deceased axe mate repeatedly from one lead passage to the next, exuding feelings of regret and melancholy with every single note. The closing song "Tear It Down" rises to almost the same heights in spite of being a pretty standard up tempo rocker by featuring a suddenly rekindled fire of energy out of Elliott's vocals as he screams himself horse from one verse line to the next, almost to the point of rivaling Brian Johnson's work on "Back In Black".
"Adrenalize" marks a noticeable decline in what had largely been a winning formula, but from a mainstream rock standpoint, it's lack of success was likely more a sign of shifting attitudes about what constituted rock music than any lack of getting the formula right. Cynical, depressing guys like me who occasionally reminisce on some of the lighter moments of days gone by tend to be a bit more picky than the average music consumer, but for an album that is mostly pop rock, there have been far worse endeavors in sterile populist pandering, a number of them coming out of this very band starting about 10 years after. Then again, much of what is found on this album does tend to resemble the overly sugary character of late 80s rock, so the level of scorn it receives is to be expected, whether warranted or not.
You know what? I have not heard one person on here that likes this album! Am I the only one? Am I the loner in this crowd of die-hard metal-heads? You can call me what you want, wuss bag, poser and other names, but I stand by what I am about to say...okay, ready?
It's not all that bad!
You want to know why? It was cheesy and campy, but it was good fun for me. I went through a phase years ago where I was OBSESSED with Def Leppard. I had the early albums and Hysteria on CD and I had Pyromania on vinyl LP. I never had this on CD. I ever only heard bad things about it, so I tended to stay away from it.Boy, was I missing out!
To me, it seems as if the absence of famed producer John "Mutt" Lange did Def Leppard a lot of good. The guitars are higher up in the mix this time around, instead of being drenched in a sea of what was then high tech (but now is significantly dated) effects. The guitars are light and crisp, similar to the sound heard on Hysteria. This Def Leppard : Lite sound proved to be very successful for the commercial audience, but alienated a lot of the longtime Def Leppard fans. The songs on here are very happy and campy for the time of Adrenalize's release. Founding axeman "Steamin" Steve Clark had just died a year or so prior to the release of this album from a deadly mixture of alcohol, painkillers and Vallium, setting the band back dearly. I thought this would be sort of a dark, emotional album, but what I got spun my head around and puzzled me for years to come.
The songs, again as I have stated previously, sound significantly dated to some. To me, it sounded as if Def Leppard was just trying to have fun. "Let's Get Rocked" is a perfect example of this. The song is a steady upbeat rocker about rebellion against authority, and just having a good, fun time. Oh my, have I violated the rules of being a metal-head? Did I commit blasphemy? Well I do not care in the least. The song is good fun. "Heaven Is" reminds me a lot of "Photograph" off 1983's Pyromania. I don't know what it is, it is just the chorus reminds me of the arena rock chorus of Photograph. And how can you not sing along to the chorus? "Heaven is a girl I know so well, She makes me feel good when I feel like hell, Heaven is a girl that I've got to have, And she makes me feel better when I'm feeling' bad". It just has that sing along feel to it. Then it comes to a halt for me, which is why I knocked off some points. "Make Love Like A Man" is just plain stupid, almost as stupid as any of the songs on "Slang" or a song on side 2 of this record, entitled "I Wanna Touch U". Both of these get the second place achievement of (excuse the political incorrectness but...) gayest Def Leppard song EVER right next to number one, a certain song off Hysteria that shall remain nameless. They are just pure sleeze laden throwaway numbers that should have been left off in favor of a song like the beautiful ballad "Two Steps Behind" that appeared on 1993's "Retro Active". The track "White Lightning" clocks in at a little over 7 minutes long, and proves to be a great song as well. My favorite song on here next to "Heaven Is" is the final number "Tear It Down" which was written by the late Steve Clark. The song is a great fun rocker that closes out the album in a blaze of glory. Whoever said that Def Leppard has been neutered of all of their talent, should listen to this. The lyrics nag at me a bit, as they are infested with sexual innuendos and all the cliches in the book, but overall one of my favorite Def Lep songs of this later era.
Another complaint with this album I have is the paper thin production. The drums sound like they are just a cheap child's drum machine. In some parts the bass is almost absent from the mix, that's how buried it is. If this album was given a second chance and was remixed and remastered, it could easily be one of my favorite Def Leppard albums of all time, but I feel that the production makes it sound as bland as vanilla in some sections.
Overall, I would only recommend this to Def Leppard die-hards. It is surely far from their best (a spot reserved for 1981's High 'N' Dry), but if you are into fun, but dated songs, I would recommend this to you. Why, you might like this if you just had an open mind!
Ok well it’s an obvious fact that not a lot of bands reach the prime of themselves far later in their career as opposed to there earlier but this just goes way too far. If I were to describe this album I would say Bryan Adams meets Phil Collins meets Sting. Yeah, older people pop rock. Now this hurts me the most because I really like this band and I’m relived to say they don't get this bad ever again (so far).
Obviously seeing as their a mainstream act the production is fine but pretty much everything else isn’t. The guitar work is nothing special but not exactly horrible, the riffs are bland and boring and the solos are fairly uninspired but at least you can feel some sort of skill in it. The bass-mild, drumming (obviously) is very simple and highlights the reason electric drums aren't cool , whatever little synthesizers on there are cheesy and the overall music is just terrible.
The lyrics are by far the worst, they are all cheesy and boring, some of them don't even make sense and they’re all just crappy love ballads that no one could like (except Rolling Stone, but we all know they don't know shit about music).
Now obviously the band has a little excuse as this was created when their second guitarists Steve Clark was in the prime of his alcoholism, which led to his death before the album was done , even with that aside I’m really disappointed because I paid R15($2) and even then I feel I was ripped off.
Def Leppard's first venture into the 90's sucks. Hard. First they lost a guitar player, Steve Clarke, one of the guys who founded the band and also a great player and songwriter. Then they decided to do the record as a four-piece. Finally, for the first time in ten years the band essentially went without Mutt Lange. What's that smell? DISASTER.
No doubt, the Leps have the producing chops and hook writing down pat, but this feels formulaic and uninspired for the most part(with two glaringly bright exceptions), Hysteria warmed over, just bleh. And commercially this thing tanked as well by Leppard standards, dropping from the mind-boggling diamond plateaus of Pyromania and Hysteria to sales of around two million. Yeah, it had like five singles, but on the whole the Hysteria chart success smacks this record on the ass and calls it bitch.
"Let's Get Rocked" is limp-wristed hard rock, much more boring than "Pour Some Sugar on Me" with less really anthemic qualities, even if the lyric is quite subtly hilarious. The production is ridiculously sparkly to an almost Hysterical degree, but this would've benefited from Mutt's ear I think.
"Heaven Is" garbage apparently, this being one of the most slack-jawed awful Leppard songs ever, really a disgrace to the name power ballad, because this lacks power of any kind. And it just gets better, because this is the first of about five lousy, lousy ballads on the record. And the song that follows is a disgrace, a shoddy arena number that just feels wobbly and false, followed by yet another ballad(and yet another single) in "Tonight" that is virtually interchangeable with "Heaven Is" and undeserving uber-smash "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad". Have you noticed how fucking Backstreet Boys these songs are?
But, allow me to thankfully contradict my assertions of awfulness by giving "White Lightning" a solid thumbs up. This riffy mess is a veritable epic by Leppard standards, rambling and rockin' for an astonishing seven and a half minutes (Jesus, that's almost a Dream Theater solo!). Skip past the ridiculous lyrics please, something about a real blow-job queen gone all dramatic and intense because apparently she can't afford Joe Elliott's cock? Bah, don't ask me. Anyway, this is one of the reasons this album isn't sitting ugly with a 20 or so.
How do you follow that up? How about with a piece of shit? Sounds good, Leppard! "Stand Up" is as generic as is physically possible, a fine piece of evidence as to why we should thank grunge, thrash, rap, neo-punk, and whatever else got together to gang-rape hair until it died a miserable and prolonged death. And believe me man, I LIKE hair metal, so don't take that lightly. "Personal Property" is more of the same, and lets not speak of "Have You Ever Needed Some so Bad". Just a limp-noodle with an overlong title that plays fair and tells you how shitty the song within will be. Likewise, just skip "I Wanna Touch You", just more poppy claptrap.
Well, for your perseverance you will be rewarded with real quality, as "Tear it Down" is ballsy and riff-mad metal High'n'Dry style, Joe Elliott having saved up his vocal chords through the rest of the garbage just to deliver to you a real scream out loud vocal performance. Hard, fast, and nasty, at least on this album, "Tear it Down" at least pointed to hope for the die-hard. There'd be one (arguably two) more good ones before the band sunk into the irredeemable zone. Thank god for that.
Stand-Outs: “Tear it Down”, “White Lightning”… there aren’t any other good songs.