Album number four from drug-loving, smut-peddling, 80s-worshipping, fnarr-fnarr merchants Steel Panther, and the question remains: is the joke starting to wear thin? To be fair, after 10 years, it’s a valid question, and one that deserves to be asked, but equally, Panther’s continued existence and huge popularity, especially in the UK, begs an alternative: is it even still a joke? The band are so entrenched in their characters and the fans so enamoured with the premise, that even Robin Thicke can’t see the line between fantasy and reality anymore. The band have always been exquisite songwriters, able to flick one off the riff at the drop of a hat and spill their hair metal influences across the page like the ultimate Bill & Ted wedding band, and if anything, ‘Lower the Bar’ is their most reverential release yet, giving Warrant (‘Goin’ In The Back Door’), Poison (‘Poontang Boomerang’), Aerosmith (‘Walk of Shame’) and Van Halen (‘Anything Goes’) the full Panther treatment, but lyrically, a dry rot has set in. While the words doggy-do, dong and goo might have been funny once, they alone are not enough anymore, likewise the increasingly tired “5.5 inches = massive” gag, but familiarity is only half the problem. ‘Lower The Bar’ simply isn’t funny, and that’s not because the jokes are stale, it’s because they aren’t there. Like an Adam Sandler movie, you know it’s meant to make you laugh, because that’s how it’s framed, but it’s hard to fathom how, or why. Wordplay, simile and innuendo are at an all-time low, and while past albums continue to illicit guffaws today, ‘Lower The Bar’ raises barely a titter on first listen, and even fewer on repeat. Even the subject matter has calcified like the proverbial doggy-do, with ‘Goin’ In The Back Door’ and ‘Anything Goes’ in particular just ‘Critter’ and ‘Party Like Tomorrow’ parts two respectively. It’s a shame, because tracks like ‘I Got What You Want’ and ‘Walk of Shame’ are as good as anything the Sunset Strip birthed in its heyday, but in attempting to smutty them up, they’ve ironically been neutered. Perhaps it’s time to focus on the music, not the myth.