Meat Loaf doesn't want peace on earth, he roars on the first track of this album; he just wants to go home. Go home? In his prime, Meat would have died before being such a party-pooper. But don't despair – he's simply voicing the thoughts of a fictional soldier, whose "story" furnishes the album's theme. Each song presents "a different scenario in his future", which makes a change from the monsters and bats that have inhabited previous records, but the narrative is really incidental to the music.
At 62, Meat Loaf can still summon his bat-out-of-hell shriek. But despite modern-rock touches from Green Day’s producer and collaborations with fans like ?Jack Black and the Darkness’ Justin Hawkins, nothing on his 10th album, Hang Cool Teddy Bear makes it to cheeseball heaven. The passion and delivery are there, but the songs aren’t. And two out of three ain’t enough.
Hang Cool Teddy Bear may not be an explicit sequel to Bat Out of Hell -- not in its title or in its composition, with Meat Loaf once again parting ways with Jim Steinman, the architect of the Bat songs -- but it sure has enough bombast to trick anybody into thinking it’s the fourth volume of Bat. It’s not, of course: unlike those three career-defining records, Hang Cool Teddy Bear boasts an actual narrative -- a hazy, unformed tale of a wounded soldier -- instead of merely being conceptual, a difference that should give the album shape particularly when married with Rob Cavallo’s crisp, bright production. Cavallo corrects all the errors of the heavy-handed metallic Bat Out of Hell III -- its slick, processed grind playing like an unfortunate artifact from the moussed and teased ’80 Sunset Strip -- but the album flails nearly as much as that misbegotten 2006 sequel because it lacks Steinman’s unerring ear for the ludicrous.