The main thing about Steel Panther is that they’re not funny. For a parody metal group, that’s less than ideal. The American band have been telling the same joke for 10 years – since their 2009 debut ‘Feel The Steel’ – and, if you’re sitting comfortably, it goes a little like this.
They’re four dudes who look and sound like an LA hair metal band from the ’80s, right, but (and here comes the punchline) they’re doing it today. The gag involves dumb guitar riffs and even dumber lyrics about sex, babes and metal. Gleeful misogyny is built into the routine and their earlier work also boasted flourishes of racism and homophobia. Ladies and gentlemen: this is incel rock.
The band’s debut featured a song called ‘Asian Hooker’, as well as the single ‘Death To All But Metal’, in which the lyrics, “Death to Britney Spears / Kill the little slut / Kill Madonna too / And then fuck her in the butt”, sound like a Louis CK routine. The BBC called the album “a feel-good masterpiece”. A broadsheet newspaper asked “Is it funny?” and, on consideration, concluded: “Hell yeah!” Well, it was a different time.
A decade later and Steel Panther continually find themselves in so much hot water that they’ve probably made an Inbetweeners joke about being wet. Last year they were widely criticised for creating the ‘Pussy Melter’, a guitar pedal they claimed would forge a guitar tone “as wet as the ladies on the front row”. Last month they weighed in on #MeToo: drummer Stix Zadinia insisted that “there’s no way that this band… would ever consider going, ‘You know what, guys? Maybe we should tone it down so we don’t bum anybody out.’”
So here we get ‘Always Gonna Be A Ho’, a glam-rocker about “the world’s biggest ho”, of whom frontman Michael Starr declares, “It don’t matter what you do / Or where you go / You’re always gonna be a ho.” He also asks, bizarrely, “Is there any man you haven’t laid? / Has your vagina never seen the shade?” What? On ‘Gods Of Pussy’, over contemplative, arpeggiated guitar, he confesses “sometimes it sucks to have a cock / So thick and juicy” because pesky groupies won’t give him a minute to himself, such is their appetite for him to be endlessly “making ‘em cream / Makin’ ‘em bleed”.
We could go on, but you get the idea. Weirdly, though, Steel Panther have toned it down. There’s thankfully none of the debut album’s sexism or homophobia here. So they clearly sense the joke’s worn extremely thin, that the parameters have shifted and you can’t get away with a song called ‘She’s On The Rag’, as they somehow did with 2014’s ‘All You Can Eat’. Which kind of begs the question: why bother doing it at all?
If you have never had sex, you might like this album. If you enjoyed Steel Panther’s single joke 10 years ago and thought, “I believe that I would enjoy hearing a slightly more apologetic version of this joke a decade down the line,” you might like this album. It’s only got one star because the NME content management system doesn’t currently support 0 stars.