Steel Panther's Feel the Steel tries way too hard to be funny
Feel the Steel (Universal Republic)
It’s a cliché, but there’s something to be said for striking while the iron is hot. The best time to buy a car is when the dealerships are clearing out their showrooms to make way for the new models. The best time to get married is in the winter, because most people wed in the summer, meaning everything’s cheaper in the cold months. And the best time to produce an elaborate parody of Sunset Strip hair metal would arguably have been before that particular genre was already a worn-out joke. Like, say, circa 1987.
Apparently no one told Steel Panther that, hence the L.A. band’s very existence. For the past nine years, Steel Panther’s four members have teased their hair, tied on bandanas, and squeezed their packages into zebra-print Spandex to relive the golden era of sleaze and masturbatory guitar solos. It doesn’t hurt their case that they have the chops, and the credentials—singer Ralph “Michael Starr” Saenz briefly fronted L.A. Guns, and guitarist Russ “Satchel” Parrish played in Rob Halford’s Fight—to pull off a convincing facsimile of ’80s cock rock. It’s kind of fun to figure out the musical references, like the fact that the harmonized guitar lick that opens “Fat Girl” has “Whitesnake” written all over it, or that the synth/talk box/spoken word intro to “Party All Day (Fuck All Night)” is a nod to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”.
Trouble is, if you’re going to release an 11-track comedy album, you’d better have more than one joke, and Steel Panther tends to rely on the same theme repeatedly: the guys in the band like to have sex, they’ll fuck anything that moves (provided it’s female), and they have no qualms about providing the listener with graphic play-by-plays of all the banging and blowing. Steel Panther’s unwavering dedication to being offensive actually smacks a little of desperation. Occasionally, though, it actually is offensive, as on “Asian Hooker”, with its refrain of “Sucky fucky/Smells like sushi.” Even more gratuitous is “Death to All But Metal”, on which guest screamer Corey Taylor (of Slipknot fame) sings “50 Cent’s a fag/So is Kanye West/Shooting hot sperm on each other’s chest.”
Okay, admittedly that’s kind of funny. The same goes for some of the song titles (“Eatin’ Ain’t Cheatin’?”) and the liner notes (bassist Lexxi Foxxx starts out his thank-you list with a shout-out to God for “inventing Aqua Net, hair spray, mirrors you can see yourself in, spray tan stuff, tanning beds, tan makeup, lip gloss, eyeliner, tattoos, and other stuff you put on your body to look bitchin!!!”)
But where Steel Panther fails is that it’s painfully obvious that the lyrics are meant to be comedic, which means that these guys are trying too hard. The reason Spinal Tap worked was that Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer came up with material that seemed like the sort of dumb shit that the coked-up hard-rock stars of the day might actually have played with a straight face. Well, that and the fact that This Is Spinal Tap came out in 1984, not 2009.
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