MEAT LOAF – Hang Cool Teddy Bear

52336Meat Loaf. What is there really to say about the guy? Or rather, what’s NOT to say about the guy? The guy is nothing short of a rock icon, but to say that his career has been a rocky one is to put things mildly. Since his legendary debut album Bat Out Of Hell (1977) (well, in all honesty, he and a chick named Shaun Murphy released an album under the Stoney & Meat Loaf back in 1971), he have kept on releasing hit records and flop records one after the other, in an ever flowing stream.  All three of his Bat Out Of Hell records have been very good and so were the Bat Out Of Hell follow-up Dead Ringer (1981) and the criminally underrated, Mack-produced Bad Attitude (1984). Both Welcome To The Neighborhood (1995) and Couldn’t Have Said It Better (2003) were good efforts, but neither felt or sounded like a Meat Loaf record, except for a few songs here and there they were more of compilations of songs by different songwriters and they felt unfocused and somewhat schizophrenic, even though both contained some amazing tunes. Then there are albums like Midnight At The Lost And Found (1983), the complete disaster that followed Dead Ringer and the even bigger flop Blind Before I Stop from 1986, two albums that almost ruined his career. And of course, this, his latest disc, an album extremely close to winding up in the crap category. But before I start the chainsaw on this, I must stress that I have always liked Meat Loaf and despite some of his failures, I have found that most of his records are worth buying.

For some reason, Meat himself talks about his last CD, the Bat Out Of Hell 3: The Monster Is Loose (2006) record as a failure and that he is happy to be back on his feet with this one. That scares me. It scared me even before I had heard a note from this album because I found the Bat 3 record an enjoyable one and I really can’t get through my skull exactly what Meat hates so much about that album. And how on Earth can he rate this one higher? Because the sad thing is, Hang Cool Teddy Bear is not a good CD. The record is supposed to be some kind of a theme or a concept album of some sort and apparently it is about a wounded soldier’s daydreams where every one of the 13 songs is an alternative version of his future. Ok. good enough. He has decided to once again use Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance) who produced Bat 3, which is weird as he slagged that album himself. And this time, not only do the songs sound unfocused and sometimes unfinished, no this time they’re plain weak. Ok, so ”Living On The Outside” is a pretty decent rocker,  first single”Los Angeloser” (written by James Michael of Sixx A.M.) has a good groove and a catchy hook and ”Song Of Madness” (featuring Steve Vai) is heavy and shows us what this album could have been. As we all know, three songs out of thirteen aren’t even close to cutting it. Opener “Peace On Earth” rocks with a punky attitude, but unfortunately, punk do not fit Meat Loaf the least and even if it did, the song is forgettable. “If I can’t Have You” goes back to the heyday of the Loaf, but it doesn’t matter as that song too is a throwaway. As if it wasn’t enough that “Love Is Not Real/Next Time You Stab Me In The Back” is a tired and dull pop-rocker, one of the song’s writers, Justin Hawkins of The Darkness fame, shows up as a guest. No, I am not a fan of neither The Darkness or Justin’s falsetto. “Like A Rose”, with backing vocals from Tenacious D-man / actor Jack Black passes by unnoticed and “Did You Ever Love Somebody” is a balladry mess that sounds like something even latter-day Bryan Adams would have rejected, which kinda speaks volumes about the song. The closing track, the Jon Bon Jovi / Billy Falcon / Desmond Child penned “Elvis In Vegas” is a dull pop number that wants to be a rocker, but is too weak and thin to qualify – which isn’t that surprising at all when you check the song’s writers. Jon Bon Jovi hasn’t written anything decent in ages.

I say, bury the hatchet with Jim Steinman and get to work and get your priorities right. The thing is, Meat Loaf and his producers must choose the material more carefully. I’m convinced that if Marvin Lee Aday and Jim Steinman  would just sit down and let bygones be bygones, then there could be yet another fine Meat Loaf album. This one, however, isn’t one of those –  this is just sad.

3/10

Tracklist:

1. Peace On Earth
2 Living On The Outside
3. Los Angeloser
4. If I Can’t Have You
5. Love Is Not Real/Next Time You Stab Me In The Back
6. Like A Rose
7. Did You Ever Love Somebody
8. Song Of Madness
9. California Isn’t Big Enough (Hey There Girl)
10. Running Away From Me
11. Let’s Be In Love
12. If It Rains
13. Elvis In Vegas

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