REVIEW: STEEL PANTHER – “Heavy Metal Rules”
Steel Panther represent an interesting conjunction in the wider realm of art. Here we have a band that is coming at you from both the world of music, and the world of comedy – both exceptionally divisive and personal forms of creativity. One person’s “Master Of Puppets” is another’s “Lulu”; one person’s anecdotal repartee is another’s puerile fart joke. Of course, that is the case for all forms of art, but it seems that music and comedy entertain the most fervent debate. There may be raging debates out there concerning brush strokes indicating a deep underlying pain the artist is experiencing, but, honestly, who cares about that?
Where comedic music has a distinct advantage is that the very nature of being comedic gives the music some all-purpose armour. If the song or album is poor, then the argument that it is a wry and intentional piece of parody, expertly executed, can be played. It makes reviewing such an item a difficult task – how can reviewers, so revered and lavished with riches, adulation, etc. the world over, point out a flaw that could be improved upon, only to be told that it was intentional?
“This is cr*p…”
“Well, that’s the point!”
“Oh, righto, I guess it’s good then?”
Might as well pack this game in if that’s the case.
Well, with professional obligations to adhere to, “Heavy Metal Rules” will get the thorough going-over it deserves, and fans of classic 80s hair/glam metal, lewd humour and ripping solos will be right at home here. Let’s face it, you knew what you were getting into with a Steel Panther album, weren’t you? If the band had altered their approach and put out an album of progressive metal meanderings with subtle wit and world music excursions, you’d think that all the booze, drugs and STDs had finally taken their toll. But no, it’s the same story you’ve come to be familiar with for the last decade.
So with that in mind, the usual put-down of “it’s more of the same” won’t hold up on this occasion because… “that’s the point!” Ignoring the fact that it’s the same stuff (again), we must ask if it’s any good? In short, yes. Musically, there’s a lot of fun to be had: the loose and jangly riff that marshalls ode to m*sturbation “All I Wanna Do Is F*ck (Myself Tonight)” is delightfully danceable, whilst the sleazy staccato shuffle to “Sneaky Little B*tch” is about as close as c*ck rock could get to being a real person (if we ignore the members of Steel Panther themselves). The pseudo-rock ballad “Always Gonna Be A Ho” is good for a laugh at the ridiculous contrast of expectations because, and let’s be honest, you wouldn’t expect to be raising your lighters aloft – or phone torch, granddad – to a song about a promiscuous girlfriend.
In fact, this is where the humour appears to work best – the filth in the likes of “All I Wanna Do Is F*ck (Myself Tonight)” is all very well and good, but it’s a path well-worn. Comedy is best served fresh, and there’s only so many times a d*ck joke will get hard, ahem, laughs. Contrast “Always Gonna Be A Ho” and the enjoyable acoustic anti-consumerism anthem “I Ain’t Buying What You’re Selling”, with the pinnacle of filth in “Gods Of P*ssy”. If there was a song that could be held up as prime Steel Panther, then this is it. Utter filth and self-aggrandising, it will inevitably become a live staple and enrage the same sort of people who kicked off a storm at Satchel’s cat-cooking guitar pedal, “P*ssy Melter”. It’s good for a wry smile, but not because it’s all that funny anymore, but because it seems to be trying to push the boundary to become funny again.
The bottom-line of whether “Heavy Metal Rules” is any good has already been answered here – about 279 words ago, in fact – but it should come with a caveat. The aping of that classic 80s metal sound has been perfected now (though it was pretty nailed-on, to begin with), and the humour is as crass as ever, so fans will be right at home, but that’s about it. Of course, one can’t expect the band to deviate too far from their schtick (nor should they, really), but the humour is less belly-laugh and more humoured-snort these days, so the comedy armour slips a little. Thankfully, the bouncy riffs, soaring vocals and ripping solos do a competent job at carrying proceedings along and prove that good songwriting can make up for most ills.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a solid addition to your party playlist as you and your bros (and ladybros) bomb alcohol like you’ve got a deep-seated disdain for the regular functioning of your liver, then Steel Panther’s latest will slot right in (ooh-er).