Hang Cool Teddy Bear: The Ginormous, Mega Huge, Glowing Album Review!

01. Peace on Earth
02. Living on the Outside
03. Los Angeloser
04. If I Can't Have You
05. Love Is Not Real (Next Time You Stab Me In The Back)
06. Like A Rose
07. Song of Madness
08. Did You Ever Love Somebody
09. California Isn't Big Enough (Hey There Girl)
10. Running Away From Me
11. Let's Be In Love
12. If It Rains
13. Elvis In Vegas

Songs in bold face are my favorites.

It's been four years since Meat Loaf's last album, Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster is Loose. For a long while it looked like Bat III was probably his final effort because of some health issues (had to have throat surgery to remove a cyst or some kind of growth from his vocal chords, amongst other things) and a disappointing reception for his greatly anticipated Bat III.  Meat Loaf even announced his retirement at one of the last concerts he did before his throat surgery. Well, history is full of entertainers and celebrities who retire-only not to-and here we are almost four years later discussing his newest offering HANG COOL TEDDY BEAR. Boy am I glad, too, because this CD ROCKS!

The big question always is: "Is it as good as Bat Out of Hell"? I think that question at this point in time is sort of senseless.  The original Bat Out of Hell has grown into legendary proportions.  Even if Meat Loaf produced an album that was in all ways vastly superior to that one, it wouldn't ever be recognized as such.  Bat Out Of Hell is the gold standard to which his subsequent albums must forever be judged and found wanting.  That's just the way it is and always will be.

I guess the highest praise one could provide this album is to say that its the best record Meat Loaf has ever done without the words BAT or HELL in the title.  I definitely believe it ranks above Bat III and completely on par with Bat II.

The concept for the album is that an American soldier in the desert gets shot up and while he lays bleeding in the sand his mind flashes forward (instead of backwards) to all of his possible futures with the girl he loves.  Ok. A few of the songs I can see that conceit. Most of them, I can't.  Hang Cool Teddy Bear is touted as a concept album but I've gotta say that you have to strain pretty hard to connect the dots.  Whatever. You know, whether it is or it isn't doesn't mean much to me. The most important fact about this album is that it's over an hours worth of Meat Loaf bringing his gargantuan voice to 13 new tracks of smoking hot rock and roll music!

Let's dig in.

1.) Peace On Earth

The first track sets the album up.  After a jarring orchestration simulating the horrible sounds of war we meet a young soldier who's obviously been hurt and we're made privy to his thoughts.  He's scared, disappointed in his life, but above all else the poor kid just wants desperately to be done with the war and go home.  All of the trademark Meat Loafisms are here:  Bombast.  Check!  Meat bringing the heat!  Check! (Honestly, he hasn't sounded better since the late 70s) Angst.  Check! This song will blister your ears.

2.) Living on the Outside
This song is much better musically than it is lyrically.  Lyrically, its pretty standard fare. Outside of the first 7 lines which I rather like it's pretty much a "You and me against the world and all we've got is this moment we're living in..." type of deal.  It smacks of filler, almost like something that might have been rejected from the second BOOH album.  It's not a BAD song, certainly. It's just generic.  I cant think of much more to add to it than that.

3.) Los Angeloser

Los Angeloser is the first cut from the album to get a video.  I waited for months in anticipation for this song to debut.  I envisioned it to be something operatic and high octane.  When I finally got to see the video on youtube I sat in stunned silence for a few moments.  Operatic and high octane it definitely wasn't.  It was...humorous and sang to perfection by a very wry Meat Loaf.  No busting in or out of hell...no riding some demonic motorcycle into the nether-worlds with a magic guitar slung over his back, just some poor schmuck who was hopelessly head over heels with a girl destined to take his money and then his pride.

Thematically, Hang Cool Teddy Bear is much different than the Bat Out Of Hell series.  Teddy Bear offers up an adult Meat Loaf.  One who has moved on from the daydreams of the first Bat album and who now sees the world around him in a more realistic light.  Hell is no longer some mythical place to rage against-it's real and its war!  People die. People disappoint. Love is more than butterflies and proclamations and saving beautiful women in distress.  Sometimes love is cruel and it always hurts and sometimes you do things you know you shouldn't just because that's the way it is and that's the way it goes. This album still has emotional broad strokes but the romantic glow has been shaved off revealing a much more layered reality than the visions in the Bat Out Of Hell series.

4.) If I Can't Have You

I really dug this duet. It almost seems like a lesser sequel to I Would Do Anything For Love (But I wont do that) from Bat Out Of Hell II. It's about promises made and promises broken and the aftermath of a busted relationship. Once again I enjoyed Meat Loaf's voice and the musical arrangement more than the lyrics. The chorus has definitely wormed into my head and I often find myself singing it to myself when Im tinkering on this or that.

05.) Love Is Not Real

Ah! Here it is! My very favorite cut from Hang Cool Teddy Bear. This track ROCKS! AWESOME MEAT VOCALS (and get a load of the backup singer about half way through-DAMN!), AWESOME GUITAR, AWESOME ARRANGEMENT, AWESOME LYRICS! Yeah!

The best songs are the ones that you can personally connect to. Songs are like coloring books. They provide the simple outline or suggestion of what something is or does and you automatically insert the colors of your own life's experiences into them.  I think that's part of the reason I love this song's lyrics so much.  I believe in love-about as much as I believe in aliens-only I think I have more faith in aliens.  Oh, I'd like to believe love exists and a part of me does to a degree-i've even known a few people who have said they've experienced it-but the trouble with love and the trouble with people is that they're both fickle and quite capable of turning a 180 at the least provocation. I guess it boils down to semantics. I think people don't actually say what they mean. Most people throw their vocabulary around like a bag of potatoes. I know I'm guilty of it.  I "love" this, I "love" that.  This is "AWESOME", that is "AWESOME". Hyperbole is my friend-and a lot of other people's too!

06.) Like a Rose

A few years ago Meatloaf played Jack Black's father in the movie Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny. It was here and gone like lightening. Not too many people saw it and fewer people liked it. I've always been a Jack Black fan myself so I enjoyed the flick ok.  Anyways, I guess JB and Meatloaf became friends and Meat invited him to sing with him on this particular song.  Like a Rose has more in common with Tenacious D than Meatloaf, by far.
My complaint with this song and another one later in the album may be sort of an eye roller for many people but I'm not comfortable with it.  I don't enjoy certain words in my music.  "Fuck" and "Bitch" are two of them and they're peppered all through this song. It ruins what might otherwise be a catchy song.

07.) Song of Madness
Ok, here's the deal: I have no clue whatsoever about what this song means. None. Zip. Notta. I couldn't even guess.  Call me stupid, but it doesn't even make sense to me after listening to it ten times in a row.  It's got lots of cool stuff going on-people going insane, people bleeding, people having agonizing dreams, people being totted to their graves, etc. but I can't detect a single narrative thread in this whole gothic mumbo-jumbo stew. Does that mean the song sucks?  Um, NO! I can enjoy lyrically ambiguous stuff as much as the next guy.  Whatever it means it does sound kind of cool.

08.) Did You Ever Love Somebody

Meat Loaf slows things down on this cut for an exquisite love song. Simple. Haunting.  Beautiful. If you took away all of the bombast and the screaming guitars, you would find that Meat Loaf is STILL an enormously talented singer, exactly as he proves on Did You Ever Love Somebody. Vocally and lyrically this is one of the high points of this album or any of his previous efforts.

09. California Isn't Big Enough (Hey There, Girl)*

California Isn't Big Enough is the only track in Hang Cool Teddy Bear that I just simply didn't care for. I'm sorry, but hearing Meat Loaf sing "I can barely fit my dick in my pants" is nearly traumatizing. I don't want to hear that sort of stuff in my music. I don't care who sings it or why. I was relieved to find that this track was understandably deleted from the Walmart release of the album.  Sexually explicit lyrics or lyrics that are overly saturated in innuendo just don't do it for me. Meat Loaf scores a zero on the Pratt meter for this one.

10.) Running Away From Me
Good track.  Short.  I like the "La, la, la, la, la, la" refrain. 

11.) Let's Be In Love Tonight
Sometimes there's a gap between emotion and responsibility/duty. Sometimes you have to fake it til you make it and you hope like hell it all comes out even in the end.  Let's Be In Love explores a relationship at that crossroad.  Good song.

12.) If It Rains
Ever get to thinking, "I don't care about the consequences, I'm gonna be who I am!" And then when the consequences hit you think, "Oh, that was brilliant!" Hahaha. Yeah, me too! That's what this song is about-living life and being true to yourself despite the storms it occasionally brings.  If It Rains is an excellent pick-me-up tune and one of the better songs on the album.

Elvis In Vegas is an odd song. I'm not sure if I understand what the lyrics are trying to convey or how exactly it fits in with the other tracks.  It almost seems like an afterthought. Good tune, nonetheless.


What's to Love:

* Meat has never sounded better.
*Great background vocals
*Lots of  amazing arrangements
*Interesting Lyrics

What's not:
*A few explicit lyrics
*A few songs that really just didn't seem to mesh with the album as a whole

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