Steel Panther isn’t something that requires any deep dissecting, and I’m sure by now that everyone knows about their shenanigans and infamous foul/overly sexual lyrics. But when your first album is one that makes W.A.S.P.’s debut album look tame, it’s at least worth looking back at on its tenth birthday. Feel The Steel was one of two records the band had released upon my discovery of them, so I’m going to break it down differently than my normal approach. And in case anybody cares, it also shares a birthday with me!
Let’s get the elephant out of the room first. Many that have such distaste for this band will mention how the lyrics are appalling. Take one like “Turn Out The Lights” that gives some of the most graphic sexual details in song format, or the acoustic ballad “Girl From Oklahoma” using sound effects and a notion that said girl is a bit too young. That’s all pretty gross, and I can understand why it would turn somebody away. What I don’t get is when those people are the same that will spin something like “Fucked With A Knife” by Cannibal Corpse, seeing that they’re both fictional tales pressed into a song. But I will admit, the nature of all of this does wear off over time, and I can’t say that I find any of this nearly as hilarious as I did when I was seventeen. The moral here is that the content is the most difficult for people to get by, and to enjoy such an effort, that’s what one should prepare for.
What’s really important, and what keeps me coming back once in a blue moon, is the art itself. Anyone who follows me knows that I’m a huge glam metal fan, and this is exactly where the band falls stylistically. Even beyond that, guitarist Satchel writes and plays some incredibly ripping solos, and the rhythms are anything but weak. “Asian Hooker” probably has one of the greatest solos to come out in the past decade. The progression and the ability to mesh memorable licks into this tactic is pretty great. There’s also no denying that Michael Starr has some great pipes. The opener “Death To All But Metal” (the one that got me to listen to them in the first place) displays this quite quickly, between the clear ability to carry a tune and falsettos. Not to mention, this one briefly features Corey Taylor on vocals (also listen for M. Shadows in the aforementioned “Turn Out The Lights”). Structurally the songs are pretty good the whole way through and don’t get repetitive at all. Regardless of the fact that Steel Panther are a total joke band, I’ll never deny that they’re great musicians.
I could easily wrap things up awhile, but one thing I love to point out is the number of bands that Feel The Steel pays obvious homage to. In “Fat Girl,” the layout and the keys greatly resemble the Whitesnake classic “Here I Go Again.” An even more obvious one is “Party All Day” throwing back to Bon Jovi’s smash hit “Livin’ On A Prayer.” The talk-box should be a dead give-away. The main riff on the acoustic “Girl From Oklahoma” is basically identical to Extreme’s “More Than Words” for a hot second, and even “Eatin’ Ain’t Cheatin’” gives a familiar taste of Van Halen’s “Unchained.” Fitting, as Steel Panther started as a Van Halen cover band. None of this makes the band special, because literally, every musician has to draw influence from somewhere. If nothing else, this gives you something else to listen for if you’re a first-timer.
But at the end of the day, I get why people don’t like this. Parody bands aren’t meant to be taken seriously, and if you dislike glam metal as is, it won’t help the situation. If any of that appeals to you, I’d recommend giving it at least one spin. I’ll admit that it’s lost a lot of its flavor over time, and as Steel Panther continued dropping albums, it got old fast. But I do enjoy some of the tunes themselves, and the band very much puts on a great live show.
Feel The Steel came out on October 6th, 2009 through Universal. It’s available in CD as well as purple vinyl, both found right here.