Def Leppard may be enjoying somewhat of a career renaissance. A successful tour in support of their double disc hits package set the stage for a band that seems to be reinvigorated after a few years of silence.
The iron is hot and the band has decided to strike with, of all things, a covers album. What could have been a simple cash-in stopgap to keep their name in record stores until the next release; Yeah! is actually the best and most exciting record Def Leppard has made in years.
Yeah! may be the lamest name for a record that I have heard but Def Leppard delivers the goods on some well- and lesser- known songs that influenced each band member. Def Leppard is such a homogenization of the bands that are spotlighted here that for anyone born after 1980 Yeah! may as well be an original release.
Song's like T. Rex's "20th Century Boy" and Sweet's "Hell Raiser" are so natural to the band that they may as well have written it themselves. Def Leppard is able to tear up some other tracks that may not initially seem as influential to their sound but in the hands of the Lepps you can quickly hear all the elements that launched the band into the stratosphere in the 80's.
"20th Century Boy" kicks off the record, delivering more muscle without losing the distinct groove of the original. "Hanging on the Telephone" is best known in the hands of Blondie, but is a prime slab of garagified Def Leppard. Most of the album highlights simply that; the sound of a rock band having fun with songs that meant the world to them.
The prerequisite ballads come in the form of the Kink's "Waterloo Sunset" and Bowie's "Drive-in Saturday" and find much of the band's romantic melodrama on the cutting room floor. The mood is so high through each track it would just put a damper on the fun to have a weepy song suck the life out of the record.
Fans who think Def Leppard sold-out after High 'n Dry will find plenty to be pleased with in a cover of Thin Lizzy's "Don't Believe a Word", a rousing riff rocker those fans have missed for so long, not to mention a version of the Face's "Stay With Me" that detonates the Leppards penchant for studio gloss and technical mastery.
Yeah! is a fourteen song oral history of rock music in the 1970's. It is a testament to these artists, and particularly Def Leppard, that each song still sounds so vibrant and alive. The good songs do that.