One of the newest additions to the niche subgenre of comedy rock is Steel Panther, a band that both parodies and pays homage to the glam metal movement that dominated the second half of the 1980s.
The band is led by frontman Michael Starr, delivering the swaggering and cocky style of singing that defined the singers of that era. On lead guitar is Russ Parrish. Taking up bass guitar and drums is Travis Haley and Darren Leader, going by the names Lexxi Foxx and Stix Zadinia.
Steel Panther has gone from being an underground phenomenon in Los Angeles to one of the world’s premiere comedy musicians, scoring appearances in major music festivals like the Download Festival in England and lucrative arena touring gigs opening for bands like Judas Priest. Now the band has returned for its fourth studio album, Lower the Bar.
It has been eight years since Steel Panther released its debut album, Feel the Steel. Judging by what has been released since, it is safe to say that the band has a clear view on what its overall act entails. Its unique blend of immature, over-sexualized lyrical humor, coupled with uncompromising glam metal ridiculousness is still present on many of the songs. But for a handful of songs, the band seems to skimp on either element, resulting in a major problem in the album.
The first half of the album features some of Steel Panther’s strongest material to date. The opening track, “Going in the Backdoor,” kicks things off very aggressively with Starr’s David Lee Roth-inspired vocals and lyrics meshing perfectly with Satchel’s infectious riffs. One song, “That’s When You Came In,” previously debuted as an exclusive acoustic song on last year’s unplugged album Live From Lexxi’s Mom’s Garage.
Beginning with “Now The Fun Starts,” the album becomes more hit-and-miss as it progresses. Haley crafts a catchy bass line in the song, and unfortunately little else, resulting in a song that leaves a lot to be desired. In a somewhat strange self-fulfilling prophecy, the album really does seem to lower the bar in terms of what Steel Panther fans expect.
The album picks up again with the penultimate track, “Walk of Shame.” With several lyrical callbacks to the last three albums, as well as hilariously crass new lyrics from Starr, it does a great job at both entertaining long times and reminding them why they enjoyed Steel Panther in the first place.
The album’s closing track, as well as its lead single, is a rendition of the legendary power pop group Cheap Trick’s 1982 hit, “She’s Tight.” While it may seem strange to end the album with a cover song, it is also nice to see the band pay tribute to its influences as a nice contrast.
Steel Panther has more or less been remaking its debut album repeatedly. But considering how popular it has been on the Billboard 200 with each album, it is obvious that its act might have a longer shelf life than expected.
The band is slated to perform in Irving Plaza on April 6 as part of the Lower The Bar Tour.