Meat Loaf – ‘Braver Than We Are’ – Review

17 Nov

It often seems unfair to compare new albums to old ones but Meat Loaf practically encourages it. He often refers to albums as sequels (and has twice literally titled them as such), uses recurring visual motifs in artwork and videos, and openly compares each new album to his initial classic – ‘Bat out of Hell.’ That grandiose masterpiece has aged well; it’s sheer bombast, tongue in cheek humour and knowing musical references sit better in our post-modern times than the po-faced Rock world of the 1970s.

In the years that followed ‘Bat…’, Meat worked sporadically with its chief author, the elusive and strange Jim Steinman. The initial follow up, ‘Dead Ringer for Love’ lacked its predocersor’s cohesion and thematic unity, whilst a full blown sequal, the commercially successful ‘Back Into Hell’ did what sequels usually do – more of the same; bigger but not better.  Fans have been clamouring for the duo to reunite for another album and at long last their wish has come true. ‘Braver Than We Are’ sees Meat and Steinman teaming up for the first time since the early ’90s.

It genuinely pains me to say that ‘Braver Than We Are’ is a damp squid (and that’s a nice way of putting it). Whereas ‘Bat out of hell’ took its cues from classic rock n roll archetypes and teenage heartache, ‘Braver than we Are’ trades those influences in for theatrical camp and fantasy inspired mumbo jumbo. There is little of the wry humour, sopping wet emotion, dynamite hooks and earworm melodies that made ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ such an irresistible classic. That record was overblown, of course it was, but ‘Braver…’ is something else entirely. You’re exhausted two songs (a whole fifteen minutes) deep in to the thing. Then there are another eight songs to go.

Meat’s singing is laboured and strained. He’s been a notoriously inconsistent live performer since the very beginning but this is the first time he’s sounded bad on record. And he does sound dangerously bad. Like ‘he’s going to keel over at any minute’ bad. It doesn’t help that he’s singing Steinmen’s most perverse lyrics to date – lines like ‘errection of the heart’ and ‘who needs the filthy moaning passed from thigh to thigh’, don’t read well and they sound even worse when belted out theatrically by an old age pensioner.

The last Meat album to feature Jim Steinman songs, albeit ones recycled from past projects, was 2006’s ‘Bat Out of Hell 3’. A late career highlight made without Stienmen’s blessing, that record was full of heart, ambition and memorable melodies. Since then Meat’s put out a couple of surprisingly weird albums that replaced the usual sky-scraping anthems with admirably restrained rock n roll numbers. In other words, Meat aged in a more interesting way than anybody could rightfully have predicted. But then again does anybody really go to Meat Loaf for energy or admirable restraint? On that front, and that front alone, it’s nice to have Meat Loaf attempting to be Meat Loaf again.

Five years ago Donald Trump fired Meat from the celebrity apprentice for ‘being too emotional’ which right now feels like high praise. Unrestrained emotional honesty was one of the things that made him so loveable in the first place. However unlistenable this record is, you can never doubt the sincerity is fully on display. Nobody does what Meat Loaf does. Nobody even attempts it. ‘Braver Than We Are’ sounds like nothing else released in 2016. To me, It scans as a disaster but that’s often the consequence of putting your heart on the line. In a way the title rings true, Meat Loaf is braver than we are – You’d have to be to even attempt this.

2/10

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