The four aging, heavily made-up men in Steel Panther look like the bastard offspring from an unholy union of Poison and Mötley Crüe circa 1989. They write over-the-top hair-metal songs ripe with melody, muscle and machismo, fearlessly creating an amalgam of that maligned era's sound and embracing all its excesses and debauchery.
Every cliché is here. Big hair, outrageous spandex and rock-god poses? Check. Stage names (Lexxi Foxxx! Stix Zadinia!), mascara and headbands? Check. Arena-ready choruses and hedonistic lyrics? Check.
In fact, Steel Panther's lyrics make 45-year-old men giggle like sixth-grade sickos in the locker room, with such fist-pumpin', head-bangin' anthems as "Pussywhipped," "She's On the Rag," "Gloryhole" and "You're Beautiful When You Don't Talk."
Those are some of the less explicit song titles from the band's third album, All You Can Eat -- an old-school party record that climaxed at No. 24 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums Chart. And all three of the band's releases, including 2009's Feel the Steel and 2011's Balls Out, topped Billboard's Comedy Albums Chart.
Fresh from an opening-act stint with Judas Priest, Steel Panther will slide into the Orpheum on Dec. 21 for the band's final headlining gig before Christmas. That, of course, will be the perfect time to perform its new holiday ditty, "The Stocking Song," which opens with this cute couplet: "So you say you like candy canes; all the ladies do/Candy canes were meant for sucking, so don't you think about trying to chew."
"A lot of the bands back in the day sang about the same things we do," says lead vocalist Michael Starr, who delivers double (and not-so-double) entendres with irony-free charisma. "The only difference is that they weren't as out front about it. We talk about stuff that people only think and don't say, because it would be politically incorrect."
That approach has confounded critics.
Is Steel Panther a novelty band or a parody act, as so many media outlets have labeled the group? Has-beens trying to recapture their glory days as the only act to consistently play West Hollywood's famous Sunset Strip, week in and week out, for more than 13 years? Tricksters who forced Republic Records' honcho Monte Lipman to surrender total creative control while becoming the oldest heavy-metal band to sign a major-label record deal?
(Starr told Isthmus he's six years older than his Wikipedia page claims, and Steel Panther's publicist made us promise not to use band members' real names.)
"The media put that parody tag on us," says Starr, who has been making music with guitarist Satchel since the early 1980s before forming Metal Shop in the early 2000s, which became Metal Skool and eventually morphed into Steel Panther. "It's a compliment, because when somebody labels you something you're not, that means nobody else does what you do."
When Starr tells you, "I love heavy metal, I really do," you want to believe him, you really do. But, like everything with this band, you can't be certain. "Satchel and I would always joke around on stage and get the crowd laughing," he says. "That's what Steel Panther does today; we just take it to another level."