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Meat Loaf's 'Braver Than We Are': EW Review

Posted on

Martin Hausler

We gave it a B-

The new Meat Loaf album should come with a warning label: Contains 70% leftovers, 80% ham and lots of cheese.

Luckily for him, Meat fans have always viewed the star’s sky-high quotient of fillers and by-products as a good thing. They cheer the bloat of the production and the corn in the arrangements. They’ll likely be equally thrilled by the vintage origin date of the material. While it’s being marketed as Meat Loaf’s first album in over two decades entirely comprised of “new” songs by his Bat Out of Hell creative brother Jim Steinman, most of these pieces have been sitting around for decades. Several, in fact, were submitted for the original Bat back in 1977, but didn’t make the cut.

The millions who snapped up that rococo classic will find even its near-misses fascinating. They’ll be particularly thrilled by cameos from two major past Meat puppets: Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito. The former belted out the studio version of “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” forty(!) years ago; the latter amplified the same parts for the video. Here, the women sing together for the first time, in the catchy, six movement extravaganza “Going All The Way.” Each sounds as Ronnie-Spector-stentorian as ever. Unfortunately, they need to in order to prop up the slouching star.    

“My voice isn’t what it once was,” Meat Loaf sings on the album’s opening track. In fact, he wobbles so badly, he can barely carry a tune without letting it sag. To make up for that, he calls on his acting chops, an apt move considering the especially theatrical material unfurled here.

The opening cut sets the tone: “Who Needs The Young” mish-mashes doo-wop, Kurt Weill, and boogie rock, then throws in some Brian May-like guitars for extra flounce. From there, the songs blare or meander in ways both silly and likable. They range from the grandiloquent oratory “Only When I Feel” to the Teutonic stomp “Godz.”

Steinman continues his fetish for goofy word play in “Loving You Is A Dirty Job (But Somebody Has To Do It)” and his flair for pulpy poetry in “Skull Of Your Country”: “There’s a black day dawning/there’s a corpse In the morning.”

Steinman scholars will be be thrilled to know that the latter cut, penned in 1969, debuted the line “turn around bright eyes,” later famously featured in Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 hit “Total Eclipse of The Heart.” They’ll also be intrigued by “Train of Love,” whose composition pre-dates “Bat” but which sounds like ’80s synth-pop meets late-stage southern rock. The backstories of the songs give the album an archeological spin. But it’s warmed by just enough updates to deliver Meat’s usual lumpy charm.

KEY TRACKS:

“Going All The Way”

A catchy cousin to “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.”

“Souvenirs”

An axed track from Bat, featuring honking SNL-style horns.