Meat Loaf - Hang Cool Teddy Bear Review
Posted by MP Schroeder on 05.11.2010
Should you care for a Meat Loaf album with no Jim Steinman songs in it?
Getting rid of the bat
Hang Cool Teddy Bear is Meat Loaf’s first album after releasing the third installment of the Bat Out of Hell saga in 2006. If anything, Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose reminded that what made the first two Bat Out of Hell albums magical was that lyrical genius Jim Steinman had written all the songs, which gave the albums a sense of creative cohesiveness, whereas the third Bat sounded patchy and without a solid direction because of his partial input. And now we have a Jim Steinman-less album that has no relation to the Bat series that made Meat Loaf’s career. Should you care for a Meat Loaf album with no Jim Steinman songs in it? You should. This is not the first time Meat goes solo, but this is the first time a non-Bat album can hold its own against his work under Jim Steinman’s songwriting wing. However, this doesn’t mean that Meat suddenly developed songwriting superpowers, since the bulk of Hang Cool Teddy Bear was written by other artists.
Hang Cool Teddy Bear is stuffed with guest appearances and songwriting collaborations. For starters, the album was produced by longtime Green Day producer Rob Cavallo; songwriters include Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida, The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins, Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman, and Jon Bon Jovi, among others; guests include Kara DioGuardi, Hugh Laurie (yes, the guy from House), Brian May, Steve Vai, Jack Black, and Patti Russo. The majority of the collaborations end up producing great songs and awesome music that work well with Meat Loaf’s trademark dramatic and affectionate style, as well as his sense of humor. The expected mixture of ballads and operatic rockers is the album’s core, while a few ventures into a more traditional rock format are successful and add some spice to the package. Where Meat doesn’t fit in well at all is during the album’s only metal moment (“Song of Madness”); Meat Loaf just wasn’t meant to be put in a metal scenario, despite what epic artwork may suggest.
Difficult to cure
Bombast goes wherever Meat Loaf goes, and Hang Cool Teddy Bear is full of larger-than-life moments and scorching instrumental flourishes; opener “Peace on Earth” is an epic song about desertion in the same vein as “Bat Out of Hell”, with ripping guitar solos and a progressive structure; “Love Is Not Real/Next Time You Stab Me in the Back” soars thanks to its elongated riff and Steve Vai and Brian May’s inspired contributions, as well as Justin Hawkins’ unbelievably high-pitched backing vocals. Sensible balladry is also a Meat Loaf staple that is present in Hang Cool Teddy Bear; “Let’s Be in Love” features a duet with Patti Russo and could easily be confused with a Jim Steinman composition, and the soft “Did You Ever Love Somebody” has Meat singing his heart out. Songs like “Los Angeloser” and “Like a Rose” are more traditional radio-friendly (if you don’t mind “Like a Rose’s” constant cursing) rockers that are way fun and lyrically sharp.
The good, the bad and the highlights:
The good is that Meat Loaf stuck to his strengths and got together with like-minded people that helped him come up with material that sounds like Meat Loaf music – and very good Meat Loaf music, I have to say. “Los Angeloser” may sound like a try at the pop charts but it doesn’t sound like a travesty. The instrumental performances are superb and Meat’s vocal performance throughout is convincing, moving and powerful. Jim Steinman may not have been on board for the album, but you will hardly notice it.
The bad is that, after all, Hang Cool Teddy Bear is an album’s worth of other people’s songs sung by Meat Loaf, which isn’t exactly artistic suicide since a lot of singers do the same thing – and the material written for him suites him well – but the album feels like it should have been credited to The All-Star Bombast Band (featuring Meat Loaf) instead. This shouldn’t bother Loaf fans though, since they well know how he works.
The highlights are:
Peace on Earth: an explosive pomp-rock song sure to make faithful Loaf fans happy; you’ve got string arrangements, guitar solos, a progressive song structure that will keep you on your toes, and a powerful Meat Loaf performance. An easy highlight.
Los Angeloser: be warned, once you listen to this song you will have it stuck inside your head for weeks; it is clearly radio-oriented but no harm is done to Meat’s style. The song is an ode to the women who have slackers for boyfriends.
Love Is Not Real/Next Time You Stab Me in the Back: an interesting number that brings together Steve Vai, Justin Hawkins and Brian May. This song is a mixture between traditional and progressive rock ideas that gives more than enough space for the guests to shine.
Like a Rose: Jack Black lends backing vocals to this hilarious song about not wanting to leave that pernicious woman in your life. It may not be the flashiest of songs, but it’s one of those cases where the lyrics are the main attraction.
Let’s Be in Love: the album’s winning ballad puts together Meat Loaf and Patti Russo to deliver an excellent performance that’s reminiscent of the Bat Out of Hell series’ most passionate moments.
Here is the official video for the album’s first single “Los Angeloser”:
Meat brings the beef
Hang Cool Teddy Bear is a solid album by post-Bat Out of Hell Meat Loaf you don’t want to miss. The album is packed with awesome collaborations and guest appearances that add a lot to both songwriting and the music, without suffocating everything else that’s going on in the song. The Meat Loaf staples fans will be looking for are all there: the prog-tinged operatic rockers, the grand ballads, witty lyrics, and Meat’s unique vocal delivery. A few songs aren’t precisely what you’d expect from Meat Loaf since they’re a bit radio-oriented, but they work, which is enough for even the most hardcore fan to end up liking them. However, Meat Loaf’s only talent showcased here is his ability to interpret other people’s songs, so if you’re hoping to listen to some Meat Loaf-penned songs, you won’t find them here. Only Meat Loaf newbies should take that as a precaution, since fans already know that Marvin Lee Aday has never claimed to be a songwriter.
The 411: Meat Loaf is back in great shape with Hang Cool Teddy Bear; the album counts with a long list of guests and collaborators that help bring the Meat Loaf staples forth in an explosive way. This may not be Bat Out of Hell, but Hang Cool Teddy Bear proves that it doesn’t have to be, nor does it have to have Jim Steinman on board for it to be a great Meat Loaf album. Pick this one up and find out for yourself.