Picks and Pans Review: Bat Out of Hell Ii: Back into Hell
If blockbuster movies can have sequels, why not blockbuster albums? Meat Loafs 1977 Bat Out of Hell has sold 25 million copies and remains an FM staple, while his five subsequent records have failed to reach such stellar heights. So the titanic singer has been working since 1989 (with songwriter-producer Jim Steinman, whose glorious excess has always suited Loafs larger-than-life lungs) on mining a second slab from the same mountain of Velveeta. Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell is so grandiose it makes the Wagnerian original seem subtle, but it equals Bat I as a guilty car-radio pleasure.
This second at-Bat is a similarly operatic remembrance of teenage life, the way it was dramatized in Phil Spector and Shangri-Las' singles. But while Bat I was nostalgic for misspent youth, Bat II sings of the flip side: that adulthood has turned out to be scary and disillusioning, as summed up in the title "Life Is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back." In the album's haunting centerpiece, "Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are," Meat Loaf, who is now 46, sings chillingly of how the ghosts of youth pursue you but remain just out of reach when you look over your shoulder.
Steinman's songwriting and production are more bloated that ever (the 11-song CD runs 76 minutes). He just keeps repeating a chorus, layering the guitars or writing another shamelessly clichéd lyric—listen to "Good Girls Go to Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)." Still, you have to admire Bat II's chutzpah as Meat Loaf tries to prove once more that nothing can save you but "sex and drums and rock and roll." (MCA)"