Springsteen isn't only rocker with a new album this spring

March 31, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Ready to play name-that-blockbuster? OK, here are your clues:

It's the first new album in five years from one of rock's biggest and best-loved acts. It's the result of more than two years of writing, recording and refining. It's the first chance fans will have to hear whether personal tragedy and a new line-up has changed a familiar sound. It's arriving in record stores today.

And it's not by Bruce Springsteen.

Give up? Well, don't feel bad if you drew a blank. After all, Def Leppard's "Adrenalize" (Mercury 314 512 185), hasn't been given the sort of build-up that has been lavished on the two new Bruce albums. Nor is it likely to accord the same critical esteem, since the Leps are seen by most music journalists as intellectual light-weights -- which is the usual for hit-oriented heavy rockers.

Still, that's no reason to feel sorry for the band. Because you only have to hear the album a couple times to understand that what Def Leppard lacks in respect, "Adrenalize" more than makes up in hooks.

Indeed, the 10 tunes assembled here are almost diabolically catchy, from the bass-driven swagger of "Let's Get Rocked" to ** the aching love-song harmonies of "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad," to the majestic guitar roar of "Tear It Down." Play it once, and the strongest choruses will haunt you all afternoon; listen a few more times, and you'll find yourself memorizing whole songs.

Which, of course, is the whole idea. Unlike Springsteen, whosesongs seem more concerned with making sense of the world as with making a dent on the charts, Def Leppard makes no pretense to deeper meaning in its music. Simply read the titles, and you already understand songs like "I Wanna Touch U" or "Make Love Like a Man"; there's no need for analysis or exegesis here.

Don't take that to mean Def Leppard's music is therefore not as worthy as Springsteen's, however. It may be less personal or reflective -- while Springsteen addresses his home life directly in his songs, Def Leppard makes no musical mention of guitarist Steve Clark's drinking-related death -- but that doesn't make it less impressive.

True, there isn't much originality to the sentiment behind "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad." But it isn't the lyric that matters here -- it's the sound. And it takes an enormous amount of craft to be able to find a combination of notes that can convey a sense of romantic desire as vividly as the slow, arching melody to this song does.

Yet that's the sort of thing Def Leppard does almost routinely on "Adrenalize." And whether the arrangements are as cleverly detailed as "Let's Get Rocked," which seems to cram every bar with ear-catching delights, or as bold and basic as "Personal Property," where the melodic momentum pushes the chorus to the point of exhilaration, the results are equally dependable.

So the choice is yours. If your taste in listening matter runs to serious, sometimes somber rock 'n' roll, by all means head out and buy the Springsteen albums. But if you simply want to get rocked, then it's time to "Adrenalize."

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