September 28, 1987 12:00 PM

Def Leppard

Def Leppard may well have peaked with their previous album, Pyromania. After all, it contained two songs of heaving passion, Photograph and Rock of Ages, that approached nitro-charged rock perfection. The British quintet’s follow-up, Hysteria, is a pleasant record, much more consistent and polished. In other words, considering the kind of music they’re supposed to be creating, it’s a disappointment. The album has been four years in the making (a delay partly attributable to the car accident that cost drummer Rick Allen his left arm, though he still bashes away on the album). But the boys are off the beam from the opening notes of Women, the half-clever, half-overstuffed arena-rock piece that kicks off the record. Suitable for Journey or Foreigner, this overly arranged track is ruinously subdued for a band of white-lightning runners like Leppard. And that’s the best song on the record. Too characteristic of the rest of the material is Armageddon It, which could have been found in the Dumpster outside Boston’s studio. In general Hysteria shows more pop and vague blues influences than Leppard’s earlier work. This relative politesse is at least smartly tailored by producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange. Singer Joe Elliott, his pitch halfway between a smooth squeal and a shout, still has one of the more exciting voices in hard rock. And guitarists Steve Clark and Phil Collen are capable of the most penetrating guitar textures since the apex of Savoy Brown. In terms of intensity, though, this album is so much less than Pyromania that it all but demands invidious comparison—and it just got it. (Mercury)

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