Classic Albums: Def Leppard – Slang

In the spring of 1996 I was 23 years old. And in the spring of 1996, May to be exact, DEF LEPPARD released one of their best albums in Slang. This was a much darker record due to a family death and a couple of divorces, but lyrically and musically it was something truly amazing. My girlfriend Tiffani had bought the CD and she knew the drill: please put it on a tape for me so I could listen to it in my car. The thing I didn’t expect to happen though, was that I’d love it and play the shit out of it for months on end, and that it would one day be featured in Classic Albums. The songs are so well-put together, and while it’s got alternative leanings it is still undeniably a DEF LEPPARD album. As spring turned to summer the tape pretty much never left my deck and helped me land a job!

“Truth?” and “Turn to Dust” are an exercise in cynicism while funky, Prince-inspired title track “Slang” remains one of my favorite songs to this very day. I was already in on this record, but “All I Want Is Everything” was one of the pieces that cemented that fact. It’s so pretty without sounding like one of those gooey, syrupy 80’s ballads that we’d all had enough of at this point. I have to admit the first time I heard “Work It Out” on Philly radio I was like, “Huh? Uhhhh…this is DEF LEPPARD?, but one or two plays later I was all about it-’bout it! I drove all around the suburbs of PA and into Philly a lot, and this is one of those tunes I just had to play LOUD to get myself good and fired up for interviews.

“Breathe a Sigh” is simply gorgeous, and has long been a favorite from the disc. I still enjoy singing along loudly whenever I put it on, and I did the same during all those drives up and down Route 76 and the Blue Route in my quest for a job. Poor Tiffani had to listen to me every time she was trapped in the ‘91 Nissan Sentra with me, heheee!! “Deliver Me” has a world-weary feel to it, with a rather melancholy guitar riff to accentuate that, while “Gift of Flesh” is an ass-kicker from start to finish. It was very hard to slow down whenever this one came on in the tape deck! It’s also the only real straight-ahead rocker on the record, but that’s okay because the band was experimenting with new sounds.

I bandy about words like “pretty”, “gorgeous”, and “lush” from time to time when describing slow songs, right? Well, all of these apply to the following duo in “Blood Runs Cold” and “Where Does Love Go When It Dies?” Lyrically and musically both of these tracks have moved me to tears on more than one occasion, and I even had to pull over once during that summer of ‘96 just to have a good cry. The songs that hit hardest are rarely the ones that are the heaviest, my friends. Phil Collen’s emotional scat vocals on the former only make it even more powerful, while the group harmony on the chorus of the latter really tug at the heartstrings. Joe Elliott delivers one of his most passionate performances, too. Both of these songs are absolute perfection.

Closing things out is “Pearl of Euphoria”, a slow, steady potboiler that builds to a crescendo on the chorus. Again, I have to say that Elliott totally slays on this song, and it is one of those that I would rewind over and over again. A lot of things happened to me in the summer of 1996, good and bad. But through it all I had Slang from DEF LEPPARD with me every step of the way. From break-ups to make-ups to jobs earned and then quit in disgust, that season saw a bit of everything. If ever there was a record that served as a soundtrack to my life events, this was it. And Jeezus, Tiffani was a saint for putting up with me and my nonsense! Those memories, along with many others, are why Slang will forever be in my Classic Albums.   ~dc

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