Ah, those guys in Steel Panther, they just won’t leave us alone, will they? The masters of IQ exempt glammy cock rock are back to bring us a forth portion of well-played but incredibly brain-dead party songs about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Yes, it is their fourth effort under the Steel Panther banner. Back when the guys – singer Michael Starr (Ralph Saenz), guitarist Sachtel (Russ Parrish), bassist Lexxi Foxx (Travis Haley) and drummer Stix Zadina (Darren Leader) – released their first – and best – record Feel The Steel in 2009, I wondered how long this tounge-in-cheek piss-take – in a loving way – on 80’s hard rock and metal would last. I mean, how many songs can you write about those topics without it getting old? Also, the band’s steals shamelessly old 80’s hits from bands such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Whitesnake and Poison and rewrites them in a way that you can easily hear which song is stolen but at the same time, they made it their own. That’s art, folks. But you can only do it so many times before it’s not that funny anymore. The follow-up Balls Out! (2011) has been spat upon – wrongly, in my opinion – by many fans. Sure, it wasn’t as good as the debut but it sure had lots of moments and I think they succeeded with the hard task of a follow-up. Their last album, 2014’s All You Can Eat was even better and it looked like Steel Panther could actually be in it for the long run. With album number four, it’s time to show us again that their stand-up comedy rock still has a place in the world of rock and roll.
No less than three singles / videos were released prior to the album’s release and first one out was the cover of Cheap Trick’s “She’s Tight”, that also featured Mr Robin Zander himself. I wasn’t that impressed – which was also the case with the two other songs – at first but it grew on me. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s take it from the start. To figure out what “Goin’ In The Backdoor” is about doesn’t take a rocket scientist so let’s just leave it at that. Musically it’s a very Steel Panther sounding song, a typical glam metal tune. It’s an ok tune, but it feels like the band is on repeat here and the it just doesn’t convince. “Anything Goes” starts out very good with a killer verse that sounds like Warrant meets Van Halen, but unfortunately the chorus doesn’t deliver like it should and choruses used to be Steel Panther’s strong side. I can’t get rid of the feeling that I have heard it before – by Steel Panther, not some other band. Second single “Poontang Boomerang” didn’t hook me at all at first and after a few spins it still leaves me somewhat underwhelmed. It’s catchy, like a more glam/arena rock version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”, but it just won’t stay with me.
The album sure could have started better, but then “That’s When You Came In” (…and blew me…) came in (pun intended) and brought hope with it. It’s an acoustic guitar based pop-metal tune that moves into ballad territory and Steel Panther nails these tunes with all the glory. It’s super catchy and must be a single at some point – awesome! “Wrong Side Of The Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills)” is a real low point here. This standard hard rocker is of a kind that’s been heard a million times before and it just keep going without any musical punchline at all. Not even the Steel Panther humor can save it. “Now The Fun Starts” takes on a different vibe. It’s a slower paced rocker with a dreamlike arrangement and there is even a trace of grunge in it without losing the Steel Panther identity one bit – one of the album’s finest tracks. “Pussy Ain’t Free” (speaking of lowering the bar…) is another one of those dirty sleaze rockers that they usually takes a home run with, but this one just don’t cut it. I can’t help smirking towards the lyrics, though. They’re so stupid they’re funny.
“Wasted Too Much Time” is a pop-metal tune with a big groove even though it goes in a slower pace (think “Fat Girl” from the debut album). The verse is pretty close to balladry but the chorus runs on high-octane and it’s catchy as a cocaine addiction – a killer track that sticks right from go. Third single “I Got What You Want” starts out really great but the highly repetitive chorus takes the song nowhere. Too bad because it could have been a real winner if the chorus had kept what the verses promised. “Walk Of Shame” comes with a cool ZZ Top like groove and an equally cool harmonica that brings a rhythm & blues vibe to the party pop-metal sound. That makes the song a winner – great! They close the album with the first single, the Cheap Trick cover “She’s Tight” that left me underwhelmed at first listen. But it has since grown on me and really, you just can’t go wrong with a Cheap Trick tune, now can you? What was I thinking?? It’s a typical Cheap Trick power pop song with a “Summertime Blues” like riff done the Steel Panther way – very good.
So here’s the deal, I would go and see Steel Panther live any day of the week because they are a superb live act and I love their debut album and I also really like the two follow-ups, but after digesting their fourth effort I wonder if the guys have taken it as far as they can both musically and lyrically. I wrote that the opening track felt like the band was on repeat and quite frankly, that’s how almost the whole sounds – you can only write these kind of songs about said subjects so many times before it gets old and, well, it’s just not that fun anymore. And without the fun, the humor and the relaxed piss-takes, done with all the love in the world for this kind of music, Steel Panther just doesn’t work. I’m not saying that this is a bad album because it isn’t, it’s pretty good, but it’s nowhere near its predecessors. Maybe it’s time for the guys to go back to the drawing table and see if they can find a new direction for the band, to go outside their comfort zone without losing the Steel Panther identity.
Other Steel Panther reviews:
1. Goin’ In The Backdoor
2. Anything Goes
3. Poontang Boomerang
4. That’s When You Came In
5. Wrong Side Of The Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills)
6. Now The Fun Starts
7. Pussy Ain’t Free
8. Wasted Too Much Time
9. I Got What You Want
10. Walk Of Shame
11. She’s Tight