On February 11, the day after my birthday, Def Leppard reissued the album Slang as a deluxe edition. When I first heard the album a few years ago, when I first got into rock music, I was very disappointed. 2010 was a strange year. I had finally made the transition from being a die-hard county music fan to becoming a fully-fledged rocker. My favorite band at the time: Def Leppard. I had fallen in love with the band’s music after borrowing my brother’s 2-disc greatest hits, Rock of Ages, and quickly began to purchase their studio albums. On Through the Night, High ‘n’ Dry, Pyromania, Hysteria, Adrenalize, and Retro Active were in my hands by that Christmas. The next two albums in chronological order were 1996’s Slang and 1999’s Euphoria. My brother owned the latter, but at the time I decided against downloading it to my iTunes because it sounded different. The same could be said of Slang.
I couldn’t stand the sound of the album when I decided to listen to it via YouTube and quickly considered it as one of the worst rock albums of all time. Released in 1996, the album was a radical departure from Def Leppard’s traditional glam metal sound made popular with 1983’s Pyromania and 1987’s Hysteria. The album was written during a dark time in the band’s career, following guitarist Steve Clark’s death in the early 1990s and the rise in Grunge music from my home metro area, Seattle. With a majority of the glam acts already being labeled as has-beens and long-time producer “Mutt” Lange out of the picture, the band saw an opportunity to express how they were feeling at the time. The result was a darker theme and more acoustic sounding album that went hand in hand with the ’90’s alternative rock scene. I often wondered if the band could have kept their popularity strong throughout the 1990s if they would have sticked to their heavy metal and glam metal roots that made them one of the best-selling artists of all-time.
After a while I began to accept more styles of rock music and appreciate much of the music that was put out during the ’90s. I gave Euphoria a second listen in late 2011 and decided to download it, noticing that it was an attempt by Def Leppard to reestablish themselves with their ’80s audience. It really didn’t differ much from their older collection, except for the more produced sound. I gave Slang another listen and grew to appreciate a few of the songs, but I still decided against making a purchase. Then in early 2013 I gave it yet another listen. This time, I realized that Slang is truly a masterpiece. While it sounds different than anything Def Leppard had done or has yet to do since, and lacked any major hits or good album sales, it still isn’t bad.
Slang shows that Def Leppard can strip down the twin-attack-guitar technique and the cut out the metal hooks and still make some good rock music. Right from the start Truth? delivers a heavy, dark-themed punch that continues for much of the album. The backing vocals on the song are much “angrier” and less harmonized. Turn to Dust is probably one of my favorite songs from the album with the experimental instruments in the background and the powerful harmonizing vocals from singer Joe Elliot and the ‘good-ol’ boys. Slang is probably the most produced song on the album, although still more organic sounding than their earlier work. It also appears to be the one song on the album that doesn’t have a deep meaning, though I could be wrong. All I Want is Everything shows a side of Def Leppard no one knew existed before.
Overall, the album takes its place with the band’s earlier work as a great, flawless album through and through. With the exception of Euphoria, Def Leppard has yet to make an album since that matches its greatness (with the disappointing pop-album X in 2002 and the so-so Songs from the Sparkle Lounge in 2008).
The Deluxe Edition also includes some drafts and rough/early mixes of the album tracks. Some of the drafts are actually quite good, such as Raise Your Love, an early version of Slang that may even be better. The album also includes some hard-to-find songs, such as Burn Out, which was released as a b-side for a single from Euphoria, Worlds Collide, All On Your Touch, Can’t Keep Away From the Flame, and Move on Up.