Sound — 9
Really, the album cover shows all you need to know.
Steel Panther is a hard rock/heavy-metal band from L.A. They are a relatively new band; this is only their third officially released album (also their first on their own label). Not surprisingly, Steel Panther used to be a Van Halen cover band on the Sunset Strip before eventually writing original music and then gaining traction as the '80s parody band that they are today. Yes, if you haven't listened to Steel Panther before, you should know that their lyrics are so sexually vulgar that you will break out laughing. And this has the side effect, I would think, of driving off many women who would find these lyrics to be offensive.
In fact, the worst negative of this album is that I would feel bad to hum the lyrics in public even though the melodies are so infectious. Really, this album is tons of fun. Yes, Steel Panther is for the most part a comedy act, but the musicianship is top notch. The songs are not overly creative, but they pose enough variation to keep from being boring. For example, most of the lyrics rely on the same rhyme schemes and the songs for the most part follow the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo structure. But where Steel Panther shows their creativity is in their ability to vary the beats not in time signature, but in style, for example switching between shuffle and staccato feels.
They also use their influences/bands they're out to parody in perfect servings. For example, the ballad "The Burden of Being Wonderful" is a hilarious parody of a Hagar-era Van Halen song. The joviality of the lyrics makes it clear what exactly type of music they are trying to lampoon. At the same time, since they only do this for one song, it doesn't feel overdone.
With other songs, like "Ten Strikes You're Out" and "If I Was the King," it is clear that the point of focus is the lyrics instead of the music; Steel Panther uses these songs as forums to state their beliefs about the world, saying what people want to say but don't because of society's rules of decency. In fact, this rule-breaking, culture-infuriating theme fits perfectly with the idea of the '80s hair metal band that they are attempting to parody.
If you are new to Steel Panther, then you aught to know that they are much more hard rock than hair metal based in terms of their music, even though they dress the part of a hair metal band; they sound much better than a hair metal band, combining creativity and catchy grooves in a manner most hair metal bands could only dream of. In fact, the only parts of their songs that even seem remotely metal are the guitar solos and a couple of riffs here and there.
The guitar work on the whole is tremendous. Steel Panther manage to come up with riffs that sound fresh, disproving the theory that every good riff has already been written. Of course, you could refute my point by saying that their riffs sound very familiar (they do) to riffs of decades past but the truth is that Steel Panther manages to change them slightly and put a new spin on them that makes the guitar work, and this album as a whole, first-rate. Likewise, the chord progressions are nothing new, but guitarist Satchel figures out ways to change them slightly by adding accents here and there to make them sound interesting. This art of adding little, almost unnoticed accents to notes is in my opinion becoming a lost art in music. Most music today is unadulterated enough that it could be put onto a tab or sheet music without missing any nuances. To me these nuances, which Steel Panther excels at creating, are an incredible asset to any band that can pull them off.
What I'm about to say seems almost like a side note, but it's definitely worth mentioning that yes, this album is ripe with guitar solos, unlike most hair metal albums (and most modern albums in general). With some of the guitar solos, Satchel channels his inner Eddie Van Halen, but other times the tapping and whammy bar-ing falls flat and feels stale. Still, I applaud Steel Panther for even including a good number of them, and even if the specific notes do not seem fitting at all times, the placement of the guitar solos in the songs is great.
Finally, the drumming is above average. What especially caught my ear though was the snare drum. Not the tone of it, more the coordination, timing and style. This may be more of a personal preference but, I thought it sounded great how the snare beats seemed to match the guitar riffs and vice versa. This kind of unorthodox (in my book) feel keeps the listener on edge the whole time, not knowing exactly what is to come next unless, of course, Steel Panther wants him to.
Lyrics — 9
Lead singer Michael Starr sings like a '70s hard rock singer; something about his style just doesn't seem hair metal. Whatever his style is called, he sings at very high pitch and seems like a less cocky version of David Lee Roth; Starr can really replicate the Roth scream well. Harmonies are well inserted into the songs and much of, if not all of the time, the harmonies are in a lower register than Starr's main line, thus making live harmonies plausible live for not as gifted singers. Also, considering that Starr is forty-seven years old, it's amazing the amount of grit he gets on his voice without straining or sounding old.
With Steel Panther though, it goes without saying that the hilarious lyrics steal the show. They are all about sex and they can get pretty vulgar, even by hard rock standards. Although, it does seem like this vulgarity is what makes them fun to hearto, and funny in the first place, because of their ridiculousness. Here is one of the cleanest examples. This is from "If I Was the King":
"If I was the King
Megan Fox would be my Queen
But I'd still f--k Christie Brinkley
And any girl older than 16
I'd execute One Direction
And drop a nuke on the Middle East
But I'd take the oil first so we wouldn't have to feel the sting
If I was the King"
This next set is from "You're Beautiful When You Don't Talk":
"More beautiful than the rarest jewel
But when you open your mouth you're such a tool
When I ruminate on all the things you said, it's clear your parents dropped you on your head
Because you're beautiful when you don't talk
The attention span of a pet rock
When you try to connect it becomes quite clear
There's nothing in between your ears
There's nothing going on upstairs
Like headlights shining on a deer"
Overall Impression — 9
If Steel Panther is trying to create a hard-rock renaissance, then this album will definitely help them. The third album from a band is usually a pivotal point in their career and I can say in my considered opinion that this album is a success. A fun, comedic, creative success. For a couple of guys who only got famous in their 40s, they're awesome. Everything about the album is unoriginal yet it still comes across as appealing, creative, and different much like, in my opinion, every new AC/DC or Iron Maiden album.
The only real negative I could think of coming to light with this awesome album is that it may get old quickly. But I guess that will be for our children to find out because right now, this album is hot. If it isn't already clear, this album is Steel Panther's best album to date and I feel that they will have no problem propelling to far more fame than they have now with this outstanding release. The standout song on the album is "Gloryhole." All the rest of the songs are on about the same level, which is still very high.
So in conclusion, please listen to this album. You'll thank me later. After you've had all your fun and, then, can somehow find the energy/willpower to stand up and thank me.