When it comes to spoof metal Spinal Tap have had it their own way far too long. But there are a bunch of new kids (OK, middle-aged men) on the block ready to take the Tap’s prized comedy rock crown.

Last summer Steel Panther were still an unknown quantity this side of the Pond but a bunch of crazy shows – including a super-charged Download set – changed all of that.

And now they’re one of the biggest draws on the live scene way beyond their Hollywood/Las Vegas residencies.

Thankfully most fans of hair metal, myself included, are well used to facing stick from the unconverted. But we can laugh at ourselves as loudly as they laugh at us.

And that’s the joy of the Panther.

They might rip the piss out the music we love but there’s no getting away from the fact that the excesses of the 80s were, quite frankly, ridiculous.

Back in the day bands did live for the next groupie, the next joint and the next crate of beer. Songs like Def Leppard’s Rocket, Witesnake’s Still Of the Night and Crue’s Girls, Girls, Girls were never meant to be thought-provoking statements of musical intent.

They were meant to celebrate the simple pleasures of playing in a rock and roll band and, at the time, getting very well paid for it.

Panther simply tell it like it is. Or like it was. And it’s no surprise the bands of the day love them as much as the fans.

Heavy metal, hair metal, pop rock – call it what you will – has always had a sense of humour at its root. It has always been about putting bums on seats, smiles on faces and transforming fans to a world they can only dream of. A world where hot women are served on a plate, the beer is free and free-flowing and the fashion is utterly ridiculous.

Last year at Download I walked out of the tent where the Panther had just blown away a capacity crowd to be greeted with David Coverdale strutting his stuff for Whitesnake. And that’s when I realised just how good Steel Panther really are at delivering their pastiche on a much loved genre.

Coverdale singing Slide It In isn’t too far removed from Michael Starr belting out the lyrics to The Shocker. Panther are a little cruder than their multi-million selling inspiration but the message is the same.

There will be some who fail to see the funny side. But it’s them who are missing out.

Panther’s latest batch of three UK shows promise to be their best yet and the smiles will outnumber the frowns by 100-1 as the crowds pour out of Newcastle’s Academy tonight.

If you can’t laugh at yourself then who can you laugh at? It’s an old adage Mr Starr and his mates adhere to religiously and they deserve a medal for putting the ‘ha’ back into hair metal.