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★★★★½
(113 Reviews)

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  • Slang, in my humble but accurate opinion, is Def Leppard’s masterpiece. It’s the album that made me a true fan. Music needs substance for me to appreciate it, and it’s testament to Leppard’s strong songwriting skills that I was a fan before Slang, because up until then, substance seemed to be something they were deliberately avoiding. Joe called the music “Deep and meaningless”.
    This album has been called an attempt at “modern music”, and it may have been, but that’s only half of it. Modern elements, like industrial, R&B, rap, and Indian styles were blended, but the upshot of incorporating so many styles gave the album a quality the band hadn’t captured before: variety. Not one of these songs sounds alike, and if it wasn’t that this was Leppard’s only CD daring enough to try variety, you’d guess they were all from different albums.
    Before Slang, you could count the number of Leppard songs actually about something on two fingers (as far as I know, “From the Inside” and “White Lightning”, with “Gods of War” coming close). Whether these songs on Slang were genuinely autobiographical, whether they were aimed at encompassing a theme or inadvertently tapped into insights the band had been storing subconsciously, they resonate on so many levels. When the lyrics are really good we get songs like “Truth?”, probably the most daring song Leppard has done, musically and lyrically; “All I Want Is Everything”, the band’s most underrated and exceptional ballad yet (my favorite interpretation of the song is that it’s about an AIDS victim); and even the most vacuously worded song on the album, “Breathe a Sigh”, is still witty, poigant, and popsmart enough that if it had been released by any band but Leppard, it would have shot straight to number one.
    Which brings me to another point. Slang didn’t sell phenomenally well because of a stigma built up against glam and arena rock. It’s sad that Leppard tucked their tails and returned to chewing their 80s bubblegum wad because with another solid release like this they could have struck down the stigma and established themselves as a band of meaning. The ultimate irony is that the next two albums, Euphoria and X, haven’t sold Slang’s 3million worldwide *combined*.
    If I sound bitter, I am. There aren’t many bands out there capable of this level of songwriting. Joe has said they’re trying to compete with the Mariah Carey’s of the world, and let’s be honest, Mariah Carey only wishes she could write a song as popsmart as “Breathe a Sigh”. Hell, let’s get back to the Metal genre and suggest Metallica could write a song as rock steady and hummable as “Work It Out”; I know, I’m shaking my head too. But the irony is, until Slang, I wouldn’t have expected Leppard were capable of it either.

    Posted on November 26, 2009