Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Steel Panther- Lower the Bar album review

 Steel Panther - Lower the Bar
Steel Panther
Lower the Bar
Rating: *** 1/2

Over the past year or so, I’ve been questioning myself as to why I like Steel Panther. There are some people that don’t like them and for valid reasons: their songs are juvenile, explicit and revolve around the same theme. How can people find this funny?  While I can see where these people are coming from, I still like the band. While they can be overly explicit, the band is doing something different: they’re a throwback to 1980s glam metal and they’re having a laugh about it. They’re just a fun band. Their latest effort, Lower the Bar, is their fourth album- following up 2014’s All You Can Eat. Compared to their last three albums, Lower the Bar isn’t as consistent. However, it still manages to be a solid album from the band.

            The album opens with the balls out rocker “Goin’ in the Backdoor.” Right off the bat, the band are in fine form- especially guitarist Satchel. It’s a really cooking tune with surprisingly solid lyrics: “Back doors never got a welcome mat” sings frontman Michael Starr. “But that never stops me cause I’m a gutter rat.” “Anything Goes,” the lead single off the album, is a pretty good tune. The song is another glam metal throwback- complete with dual lead guitar riffs. Lyrically, the song is about kinky sex- whether that involves sending a Go Pro “up your own butt hole” or banging “a hung midget in Niagara Falls.” Steel Panther continue to deliver the goods on “Poontang Boomerang” and “Wrong Side of the Tracks.” The former has a catchy chorus filled with great glam metal hooks while the latter has more impressive guitar from Satchel. The 1980s throwbacks also come in the form the melodic acoustic power ballad “That’s When You Came In.”

            The second half of the album, as much as I hate to say it, is just okay. They’re not terrible but compared to the first five tracks, these songs aren’t as strong. “Wasted Too Much Time” doesn’t offer anything new lyrically nor does “Walk of Shame.” However, the songs are pretty good musically- with the former having some nice melodic harmonies and the latter being a surprisingly bluesy tune. I do enjoy “I Got What You Want,” which is yet another glam metal throwback- complete with sensational melodic harmonies and a killer bass line from the band’s flamboyant bassist Lexxi Foxx. The album closes out with a cover of the Cheap Trick tune “She’s Tight.” While it’s not too different from the original, it’s a fun cover.

            Despite its downsides, Lower the Bar is still a decent album from Steel Panther. I’ve noticed that with this album, the songs weren’t as overly explicit as on All You Can Eat and some of the previous albums- so I’ll give credit for that. If you enjoyed the first three Steel Panther albums, you should enjoy this new batch of tunes. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Paul McCartney- Flowers in the Dirt reissue album review

 Paul McCartney - Flowers in the Dirt
Paul McCartney
Flowers in the Dirt
Rating (original album): *** 1/2 to 3.75
Bonus disc rating: ***

After a year long delay, the next entry the Paul McCartney Archive Collection has finally been released. For the tenth entry in the series, MPL have reissued McCartney’s 1989 album Flowers in the Dirt. Like the albums before it, the album has been newly remastered and features a second disc of bonus tracks.

            Released in 1989, Flowers in the Dirt was considered by many to be a little bit of a comeback for McCartney. Looking at his output in the 1980s, the critics hadn’t been easy on the former Beatle: while McCartney did release the 1982 George Martin produced Tug of War, the albums that followed it were met with mixed to negative reviews. McCartney even made a movie, Give My Regards to Broadstreet, which tanked at the box office in 1984. For what it is, Flowers in the Dirt is pretty solid album. It has a good batch of tunes that McCartney sadly doesn’t play in his shows anymore.

The album opens with the energetic “My Brave Face.” It’s a catchy pop tune and is my favorite song from the album. From there on out, the album is pretty diverse. Personally, I find myself preferring the first half of the album. For the first side, you have ballads in the form of “Distractions” and “Put It There.” The former features great vocal work from McCartney while the latter has beautiful orchestration from none other than George Martin. McCartney leaves time for guest appearances on this album. McCartney collaborated with singer Elvis Costello on this album, as Costello co-wrote four of the album’s tracks. Costello appears as the second vocalist on heartbroken slow rocker “You Want Her Too.” Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour guests on “We Got Married.” Gilmour really shines on (no pun intended) the track during the rocking second part of the song.  The second side is where I feel the album starts to decline a little. It starts off with the wonderful “Figure of Eight” and the catchy “This One” but the songs that follow it (“Don’t Be Careless Love,” “That Day is Done” and “How Many People”) are okay at best. However, the album closes with the Beach Boys-esque “Motor of Love.” While the last song on the CD version is “Ou Est Le Soleil,” “Motor of Love” sounds more like a closing songs: with the wonderful vocal harmonies and six minute running time, you get the sense of the closure.

In terms of the remastering, the powers that be have done it again. My previous copy of Flowers in the Dirt is a scratched up CD-R that I burned from a family friend’s original CD. For the few songs I was able to salvage, the main difference I can see and hear in Audicity is that it’s a lot louder- but not too loud. It doesn’t sound dramatically different but for what it is, this sounds really good.

The bonus disc for Flowers in the Dirt consists of nine demo tracks, clocking in at around 30 minutes. When it comes to bootleg albums, Flowers in the Dirt has had a number of them. The ones offered on the two-disc version are good, with a few of the songs being new to me. However, I don’t see myself wanting to come back to these demos. As always, there’s a super deluxe version of the album released with even more songs and a DVD. 

            Overall, I enjoyed this revisit of Flowers in the Dirt. It’s a good album and I think the remaster sound great. Sadly unlike the other albums in the archive collection, there is no insert on which album will be the next one released. This is disappointing as I’ve always looked forward to seeing those. Could this be the last album reissued for the archive collection? I doubt it: there are still a few albums that I think deserve a reissue- specifically Red Rose Speedway and Back to the Egg. While Flowers in the Dirt isn’t album I go back to often, I might have to come back to it a little more often now.