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Crotch rock, indie pop top roundup

Tongue-in-cheek tawdriness and an indie pop find lead the way in this month’s roundup of Vegas releases:

STEEL PANTHER, “Feel the Steel” (Universal Republic): It’s a target almost as easy as the chicks they chase.

The dudes in crotch rock caricature Steel Panther face an obvious dilemma: What’s the point in parodying something that is, in of itself, inherently self-parodying?

Really, can they be any more laughable than, say, the poodles in Tuff? Can anything? Ever?

Well, yeah, just barely, and Steel Panther sends up the Sunset Strip set with precision accuracy via lots of ridiculously over-the-top falsetto wailing, dive-bombing guitar solos and songs about the joys of fat chicks.

They don’t like subtlety, Blink-182 or Papa Roach. “Wearing baggy pants, spiking out their hair,” singer Michael Starr snarls. “They’re not worth the crust in my underwear.”

This disc is so profane, your mom’s gonna cram a bar of Lava in your ear.

But really, if a song such as “Eatin’ Ain’t Cheatin'” doesn’t elicit at least a little smirk, you’re probably taking yourself a bit too seriously.

And that’s one mistake the Panther never makes.

IMAGINE DRAGONS, “EP” (myspace.com/imaginedragons): Upon taking in this bunch’s new EP you get the sense that they could probably turn the recitation of the ingredients to a bottle of Prell into an arms-in-the-air anthem.

With outsized synth lines, ringing, perpetually cresting guitars and massive syncopated beats and cymbal splashes, Imagine Dragons don’t make any bones about believing that bigger is always better.

Singer Dan Reynolds possesses a lithe, pliant voice that hugs the beat like it was fashioned from spandex.

With its high-energy keys and afterburner chorus, it’ll only be a matter of time before a song like “Curse” is all over the radio.

Imagine that.

THE DIRECT METHOD, “You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Might Have To Put ‘Em Down” (myspace.com/thedirectmethod): The Direct Method’s scruffy sophomore disc is one of those pleasant little discoveries, like finding a crumpled up 20-spot in your back pocket the morning after a long night on the town.

The band’s lovelorn indie pop benefits from a muscular guitar interplay that adds some real density to these punchy, pleading tunes.

Frontman Tim Craft sings of defeat without ever actually sounding defeated, bemoaning the girl who got away while looking toward the next one on a disc that veers from Cars-style, keyboard-enhanced power pop (“Pacific Beach Massacre”) to a harmonica-fired swing (“First of the Seventy First”).

“This time it’s over,” Craft sighs at one point, telling off another no-good ex.

But really, it sounds like just the beginning for this bunch.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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