Tuesday, February 26, 2008
No. 384: Pyromania
Band: Def Leppard
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: "Pyromania" has sold more than 10 million records, worldwide, based on Def Leppard's very specific brand of hair metal (though, there wasn't much metal about it).
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's sugary, no-substance rock and roll. While that's fine, I don't know if it's great.
Best song: The three singles are great.
Worst song: The rest of the album sucks.
Is it awesome?: Nah, but it's tons of fun.
Just an aside for my American readers, that cover looks a little eery, considering Sept. 11, right? Is that just me? Maybe it's just me.
In a lot of ways, I'm really glad I have no real memory of the 1980s. From all I can tell, it was a decade of silliness. We had a president whose biggest resume line was acting beside a chimp, we decided as a society to be downe with day-glo and we all teased our hair.
Def Leppard's success, for example, probably couldn't have
I've mentioned this in passing, but the decade made all of the music therein look as though it has zero credibility today. While that comment is mostly about bands like The Police (bands who fell in love with synths), I'd also suggest it applies to fashion and image. Def Leppard isn't taken seriously by anyone
Now, from what I've read, they weren't taken seriously by their contemporaries, either. Critics hated "Pyromania" when it was released in 1983 in the way critics hate bands like Nickelback today. In short, the kids loved 'em, but anyone over the age of 22 hated 'em.
Stepping back from it, "Pyromania" is somewhere between genius and a hot steaming pile of garbage. There are three amazing singles and a whole bunch of nonsense. Quite simply, the album sold 10 million copies on the back of those singles.
Like Oasis, it's best not to look at Def Leppard for what they aren't, but what they are. No. Def Leppard wren't writing Dylan-esque allegories to socio-political struggle. And no, Def Leppard didn't create multi-layered sonic compositions like Pink Floyd. No, they didn't expand capture the zeitgeist like Nirvana. And no, they didn't expand the musical form like Led Zeppelin.
But, like Oasis, Def Leppard released three really fucking catchy, really fun songs from "Pyromania." "Photograph" features a patently ridiculous video, but I dare you to watch said video and not hum the song for the rest of the day. "Rock of Ages" is almost the picture of silly songs about rock and roll, but, again, it's got a great bassline, a Neil Young reference in the lyrics and a chorus that'll stay in your head all day.
Also, "Foolin'" has a bitchin' cowbell and this video:
One final aside: Def Leppard wasn't the first band to do it, but intentional misspellings really annoy me. I understand that it's a credibility thing in hip hop (yes, it still annoys me), but in rock and roll, it's not a credibility thing. It's just dumb. Slade's release of "Cum on Feel the Noize" seems to be the first real instance of this (no, the Beatles don't count, that's a bad pun) and Def Leppard carried that torch into the 1980s. It's dumb.