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Balls Out

Universal Republic (2011)
Rating: 8/10

I’m sure there are a lot of people who do not like Steel Panther. It’s a few decades on since Spinal Tap and Bad News graced our screens and stereos, and some cynics have been asking why we need another band that plays on the heavy metal parody? But if you’ve never experienced Steel Panther live, or heard the records, then you’re missing the point.

Steel Panther have somehow given metal a much needed boost, they have not only supported some of the world’s biggest metal bands – such as Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe and ZZ Top – but they’ve also sold out their own headlining shows. Their 2009 album Feel The Steel was a roaring success, and this follow-up, the hilariously titled Balls Out, looks set to make the Los Angeles-based band a household name.

So what is it about Steel Panther that separates them from other spoof bands? Well, despite the fact three of the band members wear wigs, there is something sincere about these rockers. These guys are excellent musicians, genuinely funny, and clearly enjoyed by a majority of metal fans and bands. Not only are the live shows a riot, with tongue in cheek humour, but they’ve mastered the art of borrowing heavily from the 80s metal scene, while still coming across as an infectious band with a career rather than novelty. The look and feel is of 80s hair metal, but in turn this imitation has enabled 80s hair metal to come full circle, with so many bands – which many deemed past it – reinventing themselves and releasing strong records.

Steel Panther are fronted by the mercurial Michael Starr, who, beneath that haze of a mane, is part David Lee Roth (Van Halen), part David Coverdale (Whitesnake / ex-Deep Purple), part Bret Michaels (Poison), part Vince Neil (Mötley Crüe) – spandex, lycra and all – and a fair set of pipes to match. Behind him sits guitar fiend Satchel, bass bitch Lexxi Foxxx, and drum machine Stix Zadinia. To the eye, this camp quartet may appear as nothing more than goofy imitators, but they clearly know how to write a decent tune, even if lyrically it’s all rather crude. But there’s no denying the power of their anthems or the cheeky nature of the innuendo which although mocks the 80s, also makes sure it worships it too.

Feel The Steel was a cauldron of influences, ranging from Whitesnake, Extreme, Poison, Bon Jovi and Van Halen, and Balls Out is no different. As expected we get a selection of glossy rockers, macho stompers and sweeping ballads, which of course sound like so many hair metal ballads released all those years ago.

The big hits from the record are the amusing ‘Just Like Tiger Woods’, which reeks of Ratt, with its undeniably catchy chorus, the corny ‘17 Girls In A Row’, which features the immortal line, “I banged 17 girls in the grocery store and never lost my erection”, as well as some kick ass guitars from Satchel. Starr is all pomp and pout, the archetype frontman who swoons his way through the acoustic driven ballad ‘If You Really, Really Love Me’, which reaches its climax with a lighter-waving chorus and a screaming Satchel solo, backed by Stix Zadinia’s solid drum plod.

Steel Panther may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they have an ability to not only write good, fun party rock songs, but single-handedly they’ve revived 80s hair rock, enlisting the talents of rockers such as Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) and Chad Kroeger (Nickelback) – who both appear on the searing hot ‘It Won’t Suck Itself’ – along the way.

Look beyond the cheesy song titles and you’ll find an accomplished band who’ve come at the right time for metal, and whether you like it or not, it looks like Steel Panther are here to stay. But I’ll probably get lynched for rating this higher than some “serious” metal albums!

Neil Arnold

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