Connect with Steel Panther
Chances are good if you clicked on this review, you’re familiar with Steel Panther or are at least morbidly curious about their music. Originally formed under the name Metal Shop back in 2000, Steel Panther pays tribute to the glory days of glam rock/metal and the Sunset Strip scene with a satirical lens and some of the most over the top lyrical content possible. Their fifth album On the Prowl marks the debut of new bassist Spyder, but otherwise it’s business as usual for the band as they continue to offer up songs that span the entirety of 80s hard rock, glam, and heavy metal while offering some genuinely ridiculous lyrics. It’s initially another strong showing for the long running band with some great riffs and melodic hooks alongside jokes that get stuck in your head, but some tonal inconsistencies and pacing issues hurt the album during its second half and hold it back.
Opener “Never Too Late (To Get Some Pussy Tonight)” also served as the first single from On the Prowl and was also the song that convinced me to add this one to my review roster. While this song doesn’t deviate significantly from what Steel Panther has done on their previous albums, it showcases them firing on all cylinders and capturing that 80s energy and tone perfectly. Balancing harder edged riffs with some softer melodies and even throwing in a few moments that give off hints of Metallica, there’s a lot to like about what the band has to offer here. As you continue to make your way through the first half this continues to be the case, as you get a mix of straight up glam rock/hard rock, heavy metal, and some ballads that lean somewhere between hair metal and the pop rock of that time. “Teleporter” in particular reminds me of Saxon during the verses before transitioning over to hard rock during the chorus, and it’s this type of instrumentation that makes On the Prowl appealing whether you care about the lyrics or not. Unfortunately, the second half doesn’t fare quite as well from a pacing and writing perspective. “Is My Dick Enough” is a solid track with a Dweezil Zappa guest appearance, but songs like “Magical Vagina” and “One Pump Chump” don’t quite hook me in the same way as the earlier ones. Having “Pornstar” and “Ain’t Dead Yet” also feels like a buzzkill, as putting two softer ballads back-to-back hurts the flow of the album and they come in a bit too close to the structure of “On Your Instagram”. There’s nothing outright bad here, but it does feel like the group starts to run out of steam by the second half as you’ve already heard some of the best riffs and catchiest instrumental hooks On the Prowl has to offer by then.
I usually don’t discuss lyrical content in my reviews, as this is an aspect of most music that’s incredibly subjective and I’d rather focus on elements that can be looked at more broadly. But when you have a band with song titles like “Magical Vagina”, “Pornstar”, and “Is My Dick Enough”, how can you not? I can certainly appreciate that Steel Panther are continuing the South Park approach of being as over the top as possible, especially given the current climate, and when the jokes and lyrics land here they’re really fun. Lead singer Michael Starr continues to deliver this with a grittier tone that heads upwards into a soaring melodic pitch, and even after two decades his voice is just as strong as ever. A few of the tracks are a bit too stripped down lyrically, as the aforementioned “One Pump Chump” relies on basically one line that’s repeated to the point of repetition. Others hit the mark, as “Put My Money Where Your Mouth Is” deliver the exact tongue in cheek lines I expect from Steel Panther. Some moments give me tonal whiplash though, as “On Your Instagram” discusses the filter heavy social media use of this era while “1987” is a fond look back at the bands that defined the 80s. They come through as more serious and less joke-y, to the point that it felt like I was listening to a different group (and I say that as someone that really likes both songs).
I don’t think I’ve spent in-depth time listening to Steel Panther in at least a decade, but the early singles had me interested to see if On the Prowl could reach the same level as their first two albums. It feels like there’s half of a really great album here, and if you’re a fan of the band or glam rock/metal On the Prowl is worth a listen for that first batch of songs. At this point in their career maybe that’s enough for the fan base, but I think these guys are still capable of an album that’s consistent from beginning to end in both writing and lyrical content so here’s hoping they can reach that level again.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg