The greatness of Def Leppard can be summed up in four words, and not gunter glieben glauten globen. The four words are: Girls totally liked them. This was such a formal breakthrough in metal terms, it can hardly be overstated. Def Leppard delivered pop thrills for girls: They sang harmonies, they pumped up the beat to near-disco levels, they wrote songs as tight as their Union Jack shorts, they pranced in videos. Who can forget Phil Collen’s spandex-clad ass shaking back and forth to the beat in the “Rock of Ages” video? They took as much from David Bowie and T. Rex as they took from Led Zeppelin. As a result, Lep became arguably the first metal band to enjoy a sexually integrated audience, inventing a template that so many lesser bands spent the Eighties trying to imitate. Lep had it both ways — the boys wanted to be them and the girls wanted to rock them.
Usually, when an Eighties metal band puts out a two-disc anthology, the second CD is just there for you to laugh at, but Lep really did crank up enough hits to fill this sucker out. Nobody remembers their 1990s tunes, but “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)” is one of those phenomenally sad and moody ballads Def Leppard specialized in. “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” was great; “Let’s Get Rocked” was garbage, featuring the infamously ass lyric “I suppose a rock’s out of the question.” “Make Love Like a Man” is somehow left off the album, but only about twelve fans will even notice.
Which leaves their Eighties hits, the real reason anybody will crave this collection. “Hysteria” holds up as one of the most chillingly morose pop hits of the decade, with Joe Elliott yelping, “Say you will, ooh babe, say you will” over a sleek six-note techno-metal riff. It’s an immaculate distillation of the Eighties synth-pop aesthetic that compares with the best of New Order or OMD. Lep hit similar peaks with “Photograph,” “Animal” and “Love Bites,” which oddly became their only Number One single, even though everybody liked “Pour Some Sugar on Me” a lot better. “Foolin’ ” is an intriguing attempt to write a Seventies-style sword-and-sorcery acoustic epic, the kind of old-fashioned metal trudge Leppard made obsolete. All in all, it makes “Let’s Get Rocked” easy to forgive.