Sound — 8
I have to admit to coming to know of this band a lot later than most of us, and believing they were little more than a one-off joke at first. Kind of like a real-life version of Metalocalypse's Dr. Rockzo The Rock And Roll Clown (who does c-c-c-c-COCAINE!), except without being a real punchline to any particular joke. Like a funny man without a straight man to even things out. But to my surprise, the band is on their fourth major-label album (fifth if you include their debut "Hole Patrol", released under the Metal Shop/Metal Skool names) and at least on a musical level, there's a lot of genuinely great stuff to sink your teeth into.
Influenced by '80s hair metal bands such as Mötley Crüe, Van Halen, Def Leppard, Poison, and so on, the band's raunchy lyrics are matched by equally swagger-filled '80s riffs and solos. The band's sound almost plays as one giant cliche, with the prerequisite boogie riffs, shred solos, cheesy keyboard riffs, high vocals, and ballad-esque softer guitars in just the right places throughout the album. Guitarist Satchel really shines on the album, with some truly electrified guitar playing, doing justice to the band's '80s style, perhaps not surprising since he's worked with Paul Gilbert and instructed at The Guitar Institute of Technology at Hollywood's Musician's Institute. The performances of the other musicians on the album, bassist Lexxi Foxx and drummer Stix Zadinia, are also praiseworthy, doing a perfect job of supporting the vocals and guitar.
Mixing their influences, which they wear prominently on their sleeves, it's easy to compare songs to various bands, with opener "Goin' In the Backdoor" being the closest thing you'll find nowadays to a full-on revival of Mötley Crüe's music, and many of the tracks on this album are in this vein. "Poontang Boomerang" is one of the excpetions, harking back more to Van Halen's "1984" album than any of their other hair metal peers. Acoustic guitars play into the ballad "That's When You Came In", which fits well alongside the material of what could be Steel Panther's only real modern contemporary, The Darkness. "Now the Fun Starts" is almost a kind of experimental track for the band, with a slower, almost grungey atmosphere to it. The album closes on a cover of Cheap Trick's "She's Tight", featuring Cheap Trick's vocalist Robin Zander in a guest appearance.
The album's not without some songwriting flaws, as I found "Now the Fun Starts" to ironically be one of the least fun tracks on the album, really lacking the kind of hooks the rest of the album has. And after a few straight listens through the album, the 80s glam metal pastiche does kind of wear a bit thin if you're not already hugely into the style of music. However, the production is great, and really puts the guitar front and center, but without losing the rhythm section.
Lyrics — 7
It's safe to say that Steel Panther's lyrics are not for those who value political correctness. And when your album promises to "lower the bar", you can expect some lyrics that'll make even the most hardened types squirm. If there were awards for the most debauchery on one single album, Steel Panther would win pretty much every time. Opening track "Goin' In the Backdoor" may actually be the tamest track on here, with very little in the way of profanity or direct references to sex acts, but the entendres are far from subtle: "Shop's closed up for service today/But I'm coming in no matter what they say/Goin' in the backdoor/Gonna be a tight squeeze/It's the dirty man job/Gonna bring that witchy woman to her knees, yeah". But on the second track, "Anything Goes", we're already starting to get into the kind of ridiculous lyrics that are Steel Panther's bread and butter: "Tattoo unicorns on your shaven balls/Bang a hot midget at Niagara Falls/Steal a Saturn 5 and fuck an astronaut/Zero G anal and weightless cumshots".
From here on in, the album just goes right down the gutter "sure as a bear shits in the woods/and sail boats have sails" (thanks to the track "Poontang Boomerang" for that wonderful simile). The band does take a moment on the track "That's When You Came In" to get a little more sentimental, lamenting about someone a little more special than the "endless line of 18 year old stripper druggie whores" that vocalist Michael Starr deals with in much of the rest of the album. Sometimes, the lyrics are actually pretty funny, but I just couldn't get into the song "Wasted Too Much Time" which has this rather forced-sounding line: You always treated me like doggy doo/Now I'm gonna do the same damn thing to you/And scrape you from the bottom of my shoe/Cause I wasted too much time fucking you".
So obviously, these lyrics aren't for everyone. It almost pains me to have to rate the lyrics on quality, given the content, because I know a high mark will infurate one group of people and a low mark will do the same to the rest. So as far as lyrics go, I prefer to sit on the fence with this one and let you decide whether this is for you or not.
So my rating for this section really falls more to the qualities of vocalist Michael Starr's voice, which is basically like a slightly darker David Lee Roth in his prime, complete with some of Roth's trademark histrionics. His voice is not quite as dramatic as Roth's at times, but it's still pretty easy to close your eyes and believe you're listening to some long-lost '80s Van Halen album that never saw the light of day. A lot like the lyrics, the style of singing isn't really going to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're into that '80s glam metal sound, you're probably going to enjoy this a lot.
Overall Impression — 8
Finally getting into Steel Panther feels a little like finally being in on some joke that'd been eluding me for a while. And even though the punchline is kind of a little too over-the-top and silly, it's still kind of satisfying. Guitar players will find a lot to enjoy on the album, and Satchel proves himself again to be a force to be reckoned with. If you can get past the lyrical subject matter, it's actually a quite entertaining album, and a rather musically solid one as well.
As far as homages to the '80s go, this is a remarkably faithful and well-executed one, and definitely an album that doesn't take itself too seriously. Sadly, I fall into the camp that doesn't really find the lyrics all that funny or great, but it's quite obvious from the start that this band almost makes a game of just how offensive they can make their lyrics. And in a way, I can almost appreciate a band being that blunt about it. Still, this is a great effort from the band, and shows that Steel Panther are in no danger of stopping any time soon.