Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987)
Welcome back to YDCS! Don’t forget that you can follow my Spotify playlist featuring all of the 10/10 songs from the blog by using the link on the right. Check it out! This week we’re venturing into new territory by taking on an album from the late 1980s, Hysteria by Def Leppard. This is the most recent album that I’ve covered on the blog, not for any reason in particular except that I really like the old school, sometimes bluesy, sometimes soft rock sound of the late 60s and 70s. This is an exciting one for me though because this is the rock that I grew up on. I recall very few times when my mom didn’t have Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Duran Duran, or Poison playing in the car. While this wasn’t Def Leppard’s first taste of success on the charts (their earlier album Pyromania brought them into the public eye with songs like “Photograph” and “Rock of Ages”), Hysteria arguably has bigger hits on it and was a much-awaited return after a car accident caused drummer Rick Allen to lose his left arm. The nearly four-year production period for the album was plagued with delays, including a change of producers, band members’ bouts of illness, nevermind the fact that Rick Allen re-taught himself to play the drums with one arm! The result of their persistence was an album coated in 1980s hair metal and sex appeal.
I really liked Hysteria quite a bit! I’m often critical of albums that bleed together and are of a similar sound, and yes, Hysteria does suffer from that a bit, but I found that there was enough variation in the songs to keep me interested. The production on this album is really some of the best that we’ve covered so far. Everything sounds very polished and incredibly well-balanced, not unlike a Bon Jovi album or going back as far as Kiss’ Destroyer. This is as classic of a 1980s rock album as you’ll ever find, and I think you’ll recognize a number of songs off this record. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Women: “Women” is one of the most underrated songs on this album. It’s quintessentially 1980s with its synthesizer intro but it knows how to rock! Stay on board until the chorus and you’ll see what I mean. This is a great song to open Hysteria because it lets you know exactly what you’ll be settling in for; pounding synths, guitars cranked up to 11, and lots of hair. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Rocket: “Rocket” is such a stadium jam and I love it! Imagine standing in the crowd shouting ‘ROCKET!’ back at the band during a concert. Musically, this isn’t the most exciting song on the record, but the lyrics are neat in that they reference some big songs that had come out of rock and roll up to this point like “Major Tom” and “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Solid effort! Dad’s Rating 7/10
Animal: We’re moving in to the strongest part of the album. I’m not sure why they decided to sandwich their best material in the middle of the record but it makes for a great couple songs in a row. “Animal” is an absolute classic 80s rock track and was the perfect song to be the lead single for the record. Everything seems to complement the lead vocals and be centered around that idea, really letting them shine through while leaving plenty of space through the song for a big guitar sound. Dad’s Rating 9/10
Love Bites: Were you a teenager in the 1980s? Did you ever have a high school sweetheart break your heart? Did no one understand you? If you can answer ‘yes’ to those questions then you probably listened to “Love Bites” at one point or another. This is an iconic breakup power ballad. The contrast between the soft verses and the rocking chorus would have had ME cry-shouting along with the song. This is such a good song that you could still do that today and no one would bat an eye. Sometimes, love bites…Dad’s Rating 8/10
Pour Some Sugar On Me: After “Love Bites” we get to see a different side of love…nah I’m just kidding. This track is all about sex, sex, sex, and it’s never pretended to be anything different. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” may be one of the most glam rock songs to come out of the late 80s, and it still holds up fabulously to this day. An instantly recognizable guitar intro, a rocking guitar riff and hyper-sexualized lyrics make this an anthem for the Era of Excess. I never get tired of hearing “Sugar,” in particular the opening riff. It makes me want to rock out every time I take a listen. Top-notch song! Dad’s Rating 9/10
Armageddon It: I actually didn’t recognize this song from the title alone, but once the song started I knew exactly which track it was! I’m a little ashamed of that too because this was one of my favorite songs from the album! This song doesn’t sound like anything else on the record and shows a great degree of musicianship, listening to each part in isolation. I really like the swooping lead-in to the chorus; I could listen to that over and over again. Great stuff here! Dad’s Rating 9/10
Gods of War: We have a rocker here! Listening to just the heaviness of the guitar you can really hear the latest influences on burgeoning genres like thrash and speed metal, most notably Megadeth. They would probably never admit that Def Leppard was an influence on their music, but specifically the heaviness of the guitar in the intro and the lyrics remind me a lot of some of their earlier work like Rust In Peace. “Gods of War” has everything you want in a hair metal song with great vocal harmony throughout the song, excellent musicianship, great lyrics telling the story of their fight with the Gods of War interspersed with news coverage and recordings of actual war sounds, and some moments of real shredding, both on the guitar and with some vocal screeches. Don’t skip this one! Dad’s Rating 8/10
Don’t Shoot Shot Gun: “Don’t Shoot” is one of the weaker songs on the album. It’s a rocker for sure, but like so many songs that I’ve seen before, it suffers from being placed after a series of great songs, starting with “Animal” and ending at “Gods of War.” There’s nothing particularly bad about the song, and I don’t think it’s the most forgettable of the album, but it’s just ordinary after a song featuring Presidential overdubbing and recordings of dropping bombs. Dad’s Rating 5/10
Run Riot: I really like the guitar on this track! Every piece is doing something completely different but complementary to the others at the same time. Outside of that, the song doesn’t do much to impress me, but it’s an easy-to-listen-to rock song so I can only complain so much. Give it a listen if it’s your first time listening to Hysteria, especially to hear the triple guitars, but otherwise I leave the decision in your hands. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Hysteria: At this point, I’m pretty sure that “Hysteria” has been used in every coming-of-age movie since its release, but that’s just something more to love about it. If it can be used in the late 2010s and elicit the same emotions and reaction that it did on its initial release, that’s just an example of its enduring quality. “Hysteria” is an awesome power ballad that hits all the right notes. It’s engaging and powerful, certainly enough to hold my attention (that’s MY major marker for a power ballad!), and really just an all-round emotionally charged, great song. Dad’s Rating 8/10
Excitable: What an intro! Starting off with a snarling voice asking if you’re excitable is a great way to grab attention! Unfortunately, this is probably the weakest song on the album so the snarl does little to help the song overall. It doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the record and feels almost more like a Huey Lewis song than a Def Leppard song; it’s just too poppy. Go ahead and skip it, I’m not too excited for it. Dad’s Rating 4/10
Love And Affection: Time to wrap the album up and we have a straight shooting, average kind of song here. There’s nothing to make “Love And Affection” stand out against its peers on the album; it’s very forgettable. We really could have ended this album with a runtime of a little over an hour at “Hysteria.” Not a bad song here, just forgettable. Dad’s Rating 5/10
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