Album Title: Hysteria
Artist: Def Leppard
Running Time: 62m 37s
Track listing: 1 Women; 2 Rocket; 3 Animal; 4 Love Bites; 5 Pour Some Sugar On Me; 6 Armageddon It; 7 Gods of War; 8 Don’t Shoot Shotgun; 9 Run Riot; 10 Hysteria; 11 Excitable; 12 Love and Affection
I’m sorry to be boring, but this is going to seem more like a love letter than a review. Granted I have a connection with “Hysteria” that can never be understated. In 1987, I begged my parents to buy me “Hysteria” on CD. We had a CD player for about six months but CDs were so expensive (they cost the same in 1987 that they cost in 2003) that we didn’t actually own any. They obliged, and I now owned my first rock album. It was the year I graduated from pop music to the sounds of Aerosmith, Guns N Roses and Def Leppard so I was new to long hair and guitars. But it does help when the aforementioned album is one of the greatest records of all time.
The band had an extended gap between albums after a car accident cost drummer Rick Allen his arm. The band waited for Rick to leave hospital and in a bid to get him back in the band, he had a drum kit specially adopted for him to play. Amazingly Rick mastered the kit and the band continued recording their fourth, and long-awaited album with Mutt Lange. The results were astonishing. If the leap from 1981’s “High ‘n’ Dry” to 1983’s “Pyromania” was big, the jump here was solar-system sized. “Hysteria” was simply packed full of what was to become known as “metal-lite”. It was notably not as raucous or disorderly as previous efforts, but this was also much to its credit.
While the music itself was top notch, Mutt Lange’s lavish and futuristic production helped drive the sound like no other record out at the time. ‘Rocket’ was a staggeringly powerful piece of intergalactic rock music, ‘Gods of War’ a distorted, throbbing warning of the destruction of armed conflict. On tracks like the angry ‘Women’, and the groovy ‘Armageddon It’, the bright and sweeping drum sounds almost seem to bring on the advent of 3D music. Even on a ballad like ‘Love Bites’, Lange manages to shake things up so that it sounds unconventional and edgy, avoiding that big-hair balladry that was in vogue at the time thanks to the likes of Bon Jovi and Europe.
The biggest and best thing about Def Leppard now though was the material. ‘Animal’ was the breakthrough hit and is one of the best songs of the eighties. Powerful verses, unstoppable bridge and chorus, and brilliant lyrical imagery, make this an unforgettable song. ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ is pure pop-rock kitsch but stands out as one of the most likeable and recognisable tracks of all time with it’s structured riff and pseudo-rap lyrics. Then there’s the under-rated title track. A mid-tempo rock-ballad with it’s incredibly effective lyrics that work so well within the confines of the song that you can’t help but feel an emotional attachment that is way beyond what it should be.
The likes of ‘Excitable’ shouldn’t be as addictive as it is but it’s hard to explain. When Joe tells you to ‘Stand up, say yeah…hey hey/check it out’, you just do it. ‘This obsession/It’s getting invitin’/a little x-rated/a little bit excitin’ he announces. You just nod helplessly to Steve Clark’s insatiable rhythm. ‘Don’t Shoot Shotgun’ and ‘Run Riot’ are similar. It’s “Pyromania” at it’s most basic level but it just all sounds so fresh and invigorating.
And album closer “Love and Affection” could very well have been another single (the album recorded six top twenty hits as it was). Again, it’s just another quality hook, loud and melodic and so professional and polished that you ask why all music isn’t like this.
I told you it would be a love letter. “Hysteria” might not define a generation like “Nevermind” did in 1991, but it certainly deserves to be mentioned amongst the best rock albums of all time.