Meat Loaf is back! That distinctive, powerful voice returns with the new album, Hang Cool Teddy Bear. Bet you didn’t see that one coming. You soon will.
Based on a short story by Kilian Kerwin, it tells of a young soldier lying wounded in battle, and sees his life flashing forwards. The eye-catching title comes from a line in the movie Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
Produced by Rob Cavallo, with songs by Justin Hawkins, Desmond Child, and John Michaels to name a few; and guests including Brian May, Steve Vai and Jack Black, Hang Cool Teddy Bear was destined to be a harder, edgier experience than any of the previous albums.
Meat Loaf’s voice is strong, clear, raw, smooth, soaring, once again taking us on a rollercoaster of emotion, even rivalling Justin Hawkins’ falsetto. The whole album is loud, rocking, bold, witty, funny, tenacious, and ballsy…literally.
Not since Bat II have I been so consistently amazed and impressed with so many songs on one album. I look forward to getting to know them better.
“Peace On Earth” sets the tone, theme and feel of what is to come: the album is one of dark, hard rock. It introduces us to the soldier, named Patrick, who just wants to go home.
“Living On The Outside” sees him urging his girlfriend to run away with him, with the assuring words: ‘I’ve got my mama’s smile and my daddy’s gun, you’ve got your honest face and your liar’s tongue’.
If “Los Angeloser” does not make you smile, or at least tap a toe, then you are either dead, in a coma, or have no sense of fun whatsoever. Since I downloaded the single on April 7th I’ve listened to it 42 times (according to iTunes). It is as feel good as “Summer of ‘69”, and as addictive as “Stand”.
“If I Can’t Have You” features a duet with American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi, and a piano accompaniment by Hugh Laurie. Yes, really. It comes with the kind of rocking, rolling chorus that I so enjoy but rarely find.
During “Love Is Not Real”, I was given a chill by the low rumble of Meat’s voice escalating into a soaring cry during the final ‘next time you stab me in the back you better do it to my face’ lyric. Indeed, the whole record is peppered with such spine-tingling vocals, many of them on this track alone.
“Like A Rose”, featuring Jack Black, has the kind of heavy-metal guitar sound that should theoretically see it comfortably on the next Guitar Hero instalment. It also contains lyrics that explained the “Explicit Content” label on the protective wrap of my vinyl copy of the album. Never thought I would see the day.
“Song Of Madness” is like a tortured mix of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, Alice In Wonderland, and Shakespeare, all set to a pounding rock soundtrack.
There is a respite, albeit a brief one, from the medley of instruments competing for airtime at the beginning of “Did You Ever Love Somebody”.
There is nothing in the opening few lines of “California Isn’t Big Enough For Me” to suggest what is about to come in the chorus. What comes is easily the most contentious lyric in Meat Loaf’s entire discography, so much so that in the following track, the haunting “Running Away From Me”, he seems to ask forgiveness for his plain speaking.
“Let’s Be In Love” is another duet with Patti Russo. Meat Loaf’s former lead female vocalist on tour, here her sultry voice is softer than in any of the concerts I have had the pleasure to witness, but no less stunning.
I suspect that “If It Rains” will become my favourite song on the album. ‘We’ll be in the street looking thunder in the face’ is hands down the best lyric within the best chorus.
Strangely, I found tears of nostalgia in my eyes on the final track, as it reminded me of my first concert in 2002, when I was fifteen. I may not have seen “Elvis In Vegas”, but I did see Meat Loaf in Liverpool.
Hang Cool Teddy Bear is released in the UK on Monday 19th April by Mercury Records.
Hang Cool Teddy Bear