Those of you who are familiar with Steel Panther should know exactly what to expect from their new album, Lower The Bar – big, overblown, 80s-style hard rock parodying the 1980s parties, drugs and groupies LA hair metal scene. This album is no different. Even before pressing play for the first time, the artwork and tracklisting (“Goin in the Back Door”, “Poontang Boomerang” and “She’s Tight” amongst others) scream “Steel Panther”!
The music doesn’t disappoint in that respect either. The opener “Goin’ in the Back Door” starts with a short guitar solo and has everything you would expect from Steel Panther, and this continues through the album, with the highlights of the album being the hilarious story of Tinder-date cum stalker (pun intended) “Poontang Boomerang”, the riff-heavy “Pussy Ain’t Free”, and the guitar solo on “That’s When You Came In”.
Underneath the jokes and OTT hair metal, though, is an incredibly well-played and well produced hard rock album, which is what stops the whole hair metal parody from going stale and keeps the album interesting!
Next up is Southampton-based punk band Creeper. I was actually completely unaware of them until recently, despite them having been hyped as the next big rock band for the best part of 2 years. Their Wikipedia page cites their influences as AFI, Tiger Army, the Bouncing Souls and David Bowie, so I thought their debut album Eternity in Your Arms would be right up my street.
As it happens, they sound nothing like the Bouncing Souls or Tiger Army – I’d put them much more in Alkaline Trio territory than the other 2 in some respects. There are also some (TSOL frontman) Jack Grisham-esque vocals scattered through the record, and a definite hardcore influence in places. But this is a very diverse, attention grabbing record and it is very difficult to group their influences into such a small number of bands and artists.
This is demonstrated on the opener “Black Rain”, which starts as a piano lead track with spoken female vocals, almost reminiscent of the start of All Saints’ “Never Ever” (as ashamed as I am to be able to point out the similarity), before bursting into punk drumbeats, male vocals and noisy guitar, then taking a theatrical turn through the introduction of male/female joint vocals and use of the piano amongst the guitars.
In fact, a lot of songs evolve between styles and it all links together rather well. The highlight of the album is the way the Punk mayhem of “Room 309” flows into an acoustic male/female joint-vocal finale, which blends into sound of insects then merges into the introduction of the folk-tinged “Crickets”. My one criticism of the record would be that it can wander into “teenybopper emo” territory in places, and in this respect I can certainly see why teen-targeting magazines like Kerrang have been championing them, but the album is much bigger and more complex than that – it’s well planned, well written and well executed.
The third album this week involves yet another rock star releasing a folk album. This seems to be becoming more and more common. 2 weeks ago I reviewed Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin’s folk/country release Millport, and there have been numerous others over the last couple of years such as Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler and Tiger Army’s Nick 13.
Now it’s the turn of Adam “Nergal” Darski (vocalist for Polish Death/Black metal behemoths, erm, Behemoth), who has teamed up with British-born “only famous in Poland” singer-songwriter John Porter as Me and That Man. Their album, Songs of Love and Death, certainly isn’t in the vein of the artists and albums mentioned above. In fact, it’s absolutely nothing like the artists and albums mentioned above, as you would probably expect from someone involved in the more extreme end of the musical spectrum. This album is dark, atmospheric, blues-heavy Americana, coming across like The White Stripes meets Nick Cave with generous portions of Kristofferson, Cash and (as the album title suggests) Cohen. Lyrically, it’s very much along the lines of the black metal that Darski grew up performing – full of dark, Satanic imagery. The combination of the dark, atmospheric music, this imagery and Darski’s slightly accented vocals makes some of the tracks, such as “Cross My Heart and Hope to Die”, come across much more frightening than any black metal I’ve ever heard! It’s not all “scary folk” though – there are proper rock-out bluesy efforts like “Shaman Blues” and “Get Outta This Place” – but it’s these dark elements that stand out and make this one of the most surprising albums of the year, and much more complex than it seems on the surface – I love it!
Finally, I made an attempt to get into folk pop singer songwriter Samantha Crain‘s new album You Had Me at Goodbye, but I just couldn’t get into it. She’s obviously got talent, and seems like she’s one of these lyrical storytellers but, bar a couple of tracks, it all felt a bit samey. Disappointed.