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Album review: Jim Breüer and the Loud & Rowdy - Songs from the Garage

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★★★☆☆

Comedy rock bands are only ever as good as the gimmick behind them.

Steel Panther is a parody of sex-crazed 80s glam rock, Dethklok mocks the excessive violence of extreme metal imagery, while Spinal Tap and Tenacious D are simply – but beautifully – moronic.

And the latest addition to the metal/comedy fusion genre – Jim Breuer and his backing band the Loud & Rowdy – certainly has a promising theme: the trials and tribulations of the middle-aged metalhead.

For those who do not know, Jim Breuer is an American stand-up comic, renowned for his time on Saturday Night Live and his wild, rock n’ roll-orientated stage shows.

While Breuer certainly isn’t the only heavy metal comic out there – Andrew O’Neill and Steve Hughes both instantly spring to mind – he is by far the biggest name of the niche. Breuer has performed with rock legends Metallica on numerous occasions as well as on the main stage of the notorious Wacken Festival, so for him to get his own parody album definitely makes sense.

And the result of Breuer’s head-first leap into the genre of music that he has been paying homage to for his entire career is Songs from the Garage.

The album opens with its lead single, ‘Thrash’: the track’s placement at the start of its parent album as well as it receiving early release and an accompanying video leads to the conclusion that this is supposed to be Breuer placing his best foot forward. Yet, it is the exact opposite.

If anything, ‘Thrash’ is the weakest entry on Songs from the Garage, so much so that it’s release as one of the first tastes fans will receive of the album could damage its potential.

Conceptually, the song is about Breuer spending whatever time he can while his family is away listening to metal. And while this introduces the ‘heavy metal dad’ persona that Breuer builds throughout the rest of the album – and could be identifiable for those in the same demographic – the simple question is: “Why is this funny?”

Naturally, humour is an extraordinarily subjective concept and so very hard to criticise, but the general consensus is that it is based upon two aspects: suffering and – in the instance of parody – hyperbole. ‘Thrash’ provides neither of these things.

Aspects of the song clearly demonstrate that it should be viewed as comedy – such as Breuer’s admittedly fantastic impressions of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne in the bridge – yet it feels self-restrained, as if it is afraid that it won’t be taken seriously.

Furthermore, the instrumentation by the Loud & Rowdy delivers very little to write home about. Even the most casual of rock fans will be familiar with the types of riffs and beats the band provides, mostly creating a sound reminiscent of 80s groups like Metallica and Judas Priest with very few surprises.

Yet, this criticism feels like something of a moot point, as the focus of the album seems to be primarily on Breuer’s comedy, themes and lyrics.

‘Thrash’ is definitely a weak spot on Songs from the Garage but from here things begin to improve, as demonstrated by ‘Raising Teenage Girls’.

Possibly the strongest song to be found on the record, everything that ‘Thrash’ gets wrong, this gets right. The concept – about a father’s struggles dealing with his teenage daughters – is much more original and fun, and the chorus is actually brilliantly catchy.

‘Old School’ follows suit as an enjoyable tribute to classic metal, reminiscent of Sabaton’s ‘Metal Crüe’ and Steel Panther’s ‘Death to All But Metal’ in its numerous shout-outs and references to 80s bands and albums.

‘Be a Dick 2nite’ is a mixed track, possessing another melodic and enjoyable chorus like ‘Raising Teenage Girls’ but also having verses that consist of rather unfunny, spoken passages from Breuer.

‘My Rock n’ Roll Dream’ exists as an interlude that plays into the follow-up track ‘Mr. Rock n’ Roll’. In the short song, Breuer narrates his dream of becoming both a comedian and a rock star in a voice that sounds eerily similarly to Ser Davos from Game of Thrones.

‘Mr. Rock n’ Roll’ goes onto impress mostly due to the star power attached to it: AC/DC legend Brian Johnson performs co-lead vocals with Breuer throughout.

While the track is not exactly knee-slappingly funny nor technically complex, there is something very enjoyable about it. Possibly due to how much Breuer idolises AC/DC during his stand-up, it’s just fantastic to hear him work with one of his heroes. In many ways – whether intentional or not – it’s an inspiring track.

‘Who’s Better than Us?!’ and ‘Family Warrior’ continue to mix glam metal melodies with amusing topics, although the latter definitely shines through as the stronger song, celebrating the efforts of the everyday father in brilliantly over-the-top rock n’ roll.

‘Sugar Rush’ befittingly heightens Songs from the Garage’s pace, dealing with Breuer’s attempts to control his kids on a sugar high. The song’s descriptions of kids eating sweets is amazingly similar to the hyper-energetic lyrics from the likes of Metallica’s ‘Whiplash’ and Megadeth’s ‘Rattlehead’: an exaggeration and throwback making for a very amusing touch.

‘Wannabe’ is another celebration of metal culture that also provides the best riff of the entire album by far, before it is closed by ‘The Unexplained’: a constantly building, heavy track.

The one word that could fittingly describe Songs from the Garage is simply “heartfelt”. Very little about it is genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it certainly also benefits from an original concept and the fact that it feels genuine. While some of it may not be executed that well, Songs from the Garage possesses some very fun songs – the best being ‘Raising Teenage Girls’, ‘Mr. Rock n’ Roll’ and ‘Family Warrior’ – and doesn’t feel like a comedian merely cashing in on the heavy metal fandom. It is very easy to tell that Breuer has a legitimate love for rock and in the metal subculture such a dedication is always respected.

So while Jim Breuer is far from being the next Steel Panther or Spinal Tap, Songs from the Garage is certainly something fans and bands alike should listen to. In the end, it’s a record about the life of a fan and his dedication to heavy metal.

Songs from the Garage will be available physically and digitally on 27th May via Metal Blade Records.

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