Do you remember that kid in middle school who sat in the back of the class, always tried to work words like “masturbate” and “penis” into classroom conversation, snickered loudly whenever the teacher said things like “during your next period,” and finally took to lighting his farts when everything else failed to grab your attention? Well, that kid is now 35 years old and his favorite band is Steel Panther.
You know who I'm talking about. That group of Sunset Strip rockers who used to have legitimate gigs (OK, well, by legitimate I mean L.A. Guns and Rob Halford's band Fight), but have spent the better part of the last decade goofing on a genre (i.e., 1980s hair-n-glam metal) that was already pretty cartoonish but had at least proven dubiously inspirational to legions of pimply teenagers. The Steel Panther dudes are all fine players of the form and can whip out a trashy guitar solo full of wah-wah and boogie-woogie with no effort at all. They've given themselves the stage names Michael Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxxx, and Stix Zadinia. Isn't that just a riot? Steel Panther went through two other names before settling on the current gem and has made three albums of smirky, ain't-this-hilarious cliché-driven bullshit.
And they've racked up an decent amount of celebrity endorsements, from Sarah Silverman to Gene Simmons to Billy Ray Cyrus, all of which goes to prove that no one has good taste anymore. Seriously though, would you take music suggestions from Brian Posehn? I wouldn't even trust him to walk to the kitchen and back without eating half the nachos. The problem with Steel Panther and its pointedly lowbrow “humor” is that it's less a case of the cool kids picking on the wimpy kids and more a situation where the folks involved have decided it's just easier to pave the yellow brick road by lampooning the very thing they’re good at. Audiences generally enjoy –if not embrace outright—this type of stance because they've all bought into the myth of the “guilty pleasure.” It's not really cool to dig on hair metal or spandex pants or weird illogical songs about Satan, but damn does this music rock. So they're content to make a big 'ol time having a laugh at themselves. Well, not at themselves, really, but at those other people who really love it. You know, the ones they used to be like before the mortgage, kids, and day job convinced them they were idiots.
OK, let's back up. I was never a hair metal fan outside of a handful of bands I feel were kind of unjustly lumped into the category, but if I was you'd better believe I'd own that shit and not slough it off as some sort of silly pastime like golf or something.
The majority of the laffs are targeted at women (“Asian Hooker,” “Community Property,” “Fat Girl (Thar She Blows),” etc.), and I suppose it could be argued that what they're really laughing at is the hair metal attitude toward women and groupies and so on. Thus, they're really laughing at dudes? Man, I don't know. It's all just so irritating and stupid. The distinction between dumb and stupid is an important one. Rock and roll can be wonderfully dumb. It's got a glorious history of dumbness (e.g., Ramones, Stooges, et al). Being dumb is OK; being stupid isn't. Which brings me back to that kid lighting his farts and sticking his fingers in everyone's mashed potatoes at lunch while his wispy adolescent mustache fights for attention with his Ratt t-shirt. At the time, that kid was just stupid. I'd like to think that eventually he started digging into the history of this music he spent so much time with, gained an appreciation for things a little deeper than stage explosions and glitter, and, you know, at the very least graduated from shithead to dumbass. Steel Panther makes its bucks reminding him of how stupid he was. And he pays for the privilege of hating himself. Hell, any normal person can hate themselves for free, ya know?
It always bums me out when people make fun of stuff they used to be really passionate about. It's like they're saying that entire portion of their lives was meaningless because now something else matters. And that's ridiculous. It’s like saying the hunger you felt last Sunday was meaningless because you got hungry again on Monday. It's immaterial that your tastes might have changed; the hunger is still the same. (Notice: Don't anyone even think about stealing that line. I've got my own songs to write, you know.) I guess it doesn’t really matter at all because there's always going to be those with a bully pulpit like Steel Panther who are more than happy to rake in the cash while doing that weird comedy tango whereby they're laughing at themselves and laughing at you but you're not laughing together.
Am I taking this very seriously? Yes. Pathetically so, even. But there's a grand tradition of overstating the point here at Chunklet. It's not easy being defenders of the faith.Want more lighthearted fare? I dunno. Go read The Economist or something.
Previously - Point Your Comedy