Steel Panther – Balls Out (2011)

Posted: October 19, 2011 in Music

If you haven’t heard of Steel Panther, don’t feel bad. They’ve been the Sunset Strip’s best kept secret since the turn of the century. The band – originally called Metal Shop, then later Metal Skool – made a name for themselves as a ’80s metal’ cover band in the early 2000s. The twist, though, was that while they were flat out nailing the songs note for note, they were also making a parody of it all – and of themselves.

Lead singer Michael Starr and guitarist Satchel had plenty of experience to draw off of. Starr (using his real name Ralph Saenz) had a short stint with L.A. Guns, as well as fronting Atomic Punks (A Van Halen tribute band). Maybe more impressive is Satchel’s resume – not only playing (under the name Russ Parrish) in Rob Halford’s project Fight, but also sharing guitar duties with virtuoso Paul Gilbert in a pre Racer-X project known as Electric Fence.

With that history, it’s no surprise the vocal chops and guitar licks are well done here, and the rest of the band (Lexxi Foxxx on bass and Stix Zadinia on drums) more than hold their own in what is maybe the best 80s-sounding music to come along since Crazy Lixx. But there is more to these spandex-clad rock revivalists than meets the eye – a lot more.

Sure – they riff and roll their way along, raising an era from the ashes. In fact, it’s easy to get caught up in the musical homages to such bands as Ratt, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and others – but that’s only half of it. And not even the better half.

You see, through all their years of paying respect to the sounds of an era long gone, they realized how ‘over-the-top’ and unintentionally laughable a lot of it was. So the plan of attack? Take the ‘sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll’ approach and amplify the message exponentially – and make it as dirty and hilarious as possible. The end result is some of the most genuine-sounding glam metal with lyrical content that would make Sam Kinison blush…

It all kind of makes sense though. The glam metal scene – in its heyday – claimed to be ‘rude, lewd, crude, and tattooed’ with acts such as Faster Pussycat and Motley Crue leading the way. Songs glorifying women, booze and drugs was pretty much status quo back then, but forget about what you think you know about all that – these guys are a whole different animal.

November 1st brings the band’s second album – Balls Out – to the table, so squeeze into your zebra-print pants, tease your mullet full of AquaNet and grab your air guitar of choice. The shit is about to get real.

The album opens with In The Future – a spoken-word intro by Dane Cook (although the demonic distortion makes it unrecognizable) similar to the opening of Number of The Beast – intentionally, no doubt. This tale of “blueballsium’ and search for pussy leads right into “Supersonic Sex Machine” which absolutely rips. Fast, ferocious, frenzied, and – well – funny. It doesn’t take long for the album to earn its ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker, as the lyrics are profane as per normal – and it sets the tone for the rest of the album.

One of my favorite tracks came quickly in the form of “Just Like Tiger Woods.” We all know the story of the golf legends fall from grace with his sexual exploits, and the band puts them right in the spotlight. But instead of making fun of him, they actually seem to be siding with his lack of discretion. The lyrics are clever and a riot. “Remember this when you’re having fun – three holes are better than a hole-in-one” croons Starr in this precautionary tale, but as smart as the lyrics are, it’s immediately noticeable that the band has spent plenty of time working on their licks. In fact, the best part of Balls Out is that the jokes don’t detract from the fun – or the integrity – of the songs themselves. If you’re aren’t listening closely, it just sounds like some pretty kick-ass metal – and that’s part of the magic.

The first single in America is “17 Girls In A Row” that has the sexiest swagger in a metal song since “Way Cool Jr.” No need to dive too deep into the lyrics – if you can read the title, you probably get the gist of it. The ‘edited’ version is bound to sound like a morse code message with all the potential opportunities for ‘bleeps’, but the track is well performed, and will get some decent attention from the stations not afraid to play it.

Europe gets their very own single out of the gate with “If You Really, Really Love Me” – and with good reason. The band puts on their Union Jack shorts here, and in an obvious nod to Def Leppard, deliver a hilarious ballad/rocker about how your girl should just tolerate all your actions – from butt sex to playing video games all day to bringing home tramps to have sex with. It’s delivered with tons of power and precision along the way, and stands out as one of the band’s better tracks.

Speaking of Def Leppard, Steel Panther is getting some well-deserved attention lately – earning a supporting slot on tour with Joe Elliot’s band of merry men and Motley Crue. But the recognition doesn’t end there. The track “It Won’t Suck Itself” (which is about exactly what you think) features guest vocals from Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, as well as an amazing guest appearance from Extreme’s shredder, Nuno Bettencourt. The cry out for oral stimulation is a bombastic romp that goes toe to toe with any – and I mean ANY – metal song from the eighties musically amd any 2 Live Crew track lyrically.

“Tomorrow Night” is about as funny as anything on the disc, but the music didn’t blow me way as much as the previous tracks. It’s very Dokken-esque, but the lyrics steal the show. It’s all about going out and partying… tomorrow. The partying is on hold for ‘tonight’ due to commitments involving such things as masturbating, playing Angry Birds, and being a loser. I found myself laughing all the way through, so it still gets pretty high marks.

Skipping ahead a few tracks (we don’t want to ruin EVERY punchline), we get “I Like Drugs.” You only need to listen to the first line to get the party started. “Last night I got so high, I think I had sex with the cable guy” may not be one of the most poetic lyrics ever written, but it’s bound to be one of the most memorable. The track is heavy with Poison influence (who I’m pretty sure also liked drugs) and keeps the album cruising on overdrive with sing-along choruses and tasty guitar solos. An anthem for narcotics use never sounded better…

The band has been playing “Critter” live for a while now, and we finally get the studio version in all its unabashed glory. While past ‘intercourse’ innuendos such as “Unskinny Bop” and “Cherry Pie” sugar-coated the idea, “Hit her in the shitter, treat her like a critter…” almost takes all the fun out of it – but it made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants. It’s three and a half minutes of nothing ‘butt’ anal sex references, yet is as creative and engaging as any other rock song. Don’t knock it ’till you try it, I guess.

The closer needed to be special, and what better way than by paying tribute to maybe the best metal ballad of all time – Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home.” Beautiful pianos and strings accompany the softer, dedicated vocals in “Weenie Ride” which invites the listener to skip Disneyland and other attractions for – you guessed it – a ticket on the baloney pony. It sounds so serious, and is delivered with such intent that you almost don’t notice the beer running out of your nose. Epic.

So is any of this to be taken seriously? Of course not – but there is plenty of credible metal here. It’s filled with cliche after cliche, but the rare combination of over-glorified lyrics and extremely tight musicianship presents a listening experience like none other – especially for fans of the genre. They aren’t really making ‘fun’ of the past – just pushing the envelope way beyond the expected boundaries. In fact, by approaching themselves as a ‘joke metal’ band, they are able to pretty much go wherever they want to lyrically. It’s obscene at times and degrading at others, but hey – it’s all in good fun… right?

8/10

Tracklist:
01. In The Future
02. Supersonic Sex Machine
03. Just Like Tiger Woods
04. 17 Girls In A Row
05. If You Really, Really Love Me
06. It Won’t Suck Itself
07. Tomorrow Night
08. Why Can’t You Trust Me
09. That’s What Girls Are For
10. Gold-Digging Whore
11. I Like Drugs
12. Critter
13. Let Me Cum In
14. Weenie Ride

Buy at: Amazon

MySpace: Link | Wiki: Link

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