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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

CD Review: Bang Tango - Dancin' On Coals Reissue

Bang Tango - Dancin' On Coals Reissue
2011 Metal Mind Productions
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

So few bands kick up the "ahh, what could've been" idiom like Bang Tango. Despite this band cropping up as bisected entities in recent years (similar to L.A. Guns, which briefly housed Bang Tango vocalist Joe LeSte in one of their own alter-camps), the quick dismissal of Bang Tango from the hard rock scene is sad. Despite MTV pouring out heavy plays of Bang Tango's "Someone Like You" video from their debut album, Psycho Cafe, the band hardly stood a chance come 1991 when releasing their funky and giddy Dancin' On Coals.

Then again, most metal and hard rock bands stood very little chance that year, as anything and anyone resembling Aqua Net gypsies had been given the door by the American listening public. Flannel instead of ascots and velvet vests were the new norm. Bang Tango in 1991 had already made a terrific impression with '89's Psycho Cafe, yet they could've followed up with the glam album of the decade and it wouldn't have mattered.

Unfortunate, because Dancin' on Coals, minus a couple of minor glibs, should've kept Bang Tango in good standing amongst the rock community. America proved fickle, however, and ohhhhh my my, Bang Tango got once bitten into hairball obscurity.

Dancin' On Coals, folks, is a bit of a lost classic in a time when Bang Tango, along with Faster Pussycat and L.A. Guns, had a shot at taking over the metal scene. Let's not forget the impact White Zombie made upon the metal scene; for many listeners, they were as heavy as they wanted it. Dirty, sleazy, rocking, that's what Bang Tango is, and with Dancin' On Coals, they proved their funk affinities on Psycho Cafe were no fluke. Everyone always says Bang Tango was chasing after the wake of the Red Hot Chili Peppers with this album, but actually, they hit closer to Fishbone and Jimi Hendrix on the slapdash jives of "I'm In Love," "My Saltine," "Big Line" and "Soul to Soul." "Soul to Soul" bears a few timing squibs but is very ambitious stuff for its time.

The Chilis were in transition between the funk punk nirvana of Mother's Milk and the ass-drag that turned up as Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Dancin' On Coals hardly mimics either album. If anything, Bang Tango confirmed that funk had a cozy spot in aggressive music, which opened the door for future groups like Mindfunk, Infectious Grooves and later on, the pre-prefab years of Incubus and Sugar Ray.

Of course, Jimi Hendrix had long showed the way before Bang Tango, but they sure as heck get it right on the animalistic funk party of "Big Line," courtesy of Mark Knight and Kyle Stevens who whip and wah enough to shake a groove or three.

However, there are other moods to this album, such as the spearheaded rock drive of "United and True" and "Dressed Up Vamp," which recreate the gusty pumps of Psycho Cafe. They dab out an Aerosmith-felt toe tapper with "Cactus Juice" as well as a Black Crowes and Faster Pussycat-like bob on "Last Kiss." The couple times Bang Tango slows down on Dancin' On Coals are hit and miss. "Midnight Struck" strives for a Rolling Stones gospel and country hoist which floats agreeably. "Emotion in Gear" gets lost in emotion, but at least "I'm in Love" picks up the pieces from that point and Dancin' On Coals stays true the rest of the way.

This reissue of Dancin' On Coals includes two live cuts, "Futurama" and "20th Century Boy," both capturing the band well on their game, even if this version of "20th Century Boy" also appears on the Ain't No Jive...Live EP. In the end, what Dancin' On Coals proves is that Joe LeSte was one hell of a frontman, Kyle Kyle could spank a bass like a monkey, Tigo Ketler could drop the beat once in awhile but was wholeheartedly steady and both Knight and Stevens could rip and tear amongst the best of their peers. Together, Bang Tango had magic on Psycho Cafe, Dancin' On Coals and even their 1994 release, Love After Death. They've seen better days as spliced versions since their short-lived glory days and that's a shame. Bang Tango is a rock 'n roll casualty that didn't need to be.

Rating: ****


DPTH International said...

I've always been curious about Bang Tango. I have the song "Someone Like You" on a Power Hour Compilation album and it's a pretty good song.

The funk elements you describe intrigue me. I think I'll have to give them a proper listen.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Yeah, check it out, bro. In a way, this album is more accomplished musically than Psycho Cafe, though Cafe has more fang.

cjk_44 said...

count me as one who was impressed with "Someone Like You." i remember sitting in my college's radio station and they let me make my own mix tapes from their promo singles. if i remember correctly i think i put "Someone Like You" on the first side of the first mix tape i made in that environment. too bad lack of finances at the time prevented me from picking up their albums. i might have to get the reissue and soak up the memories of the '80s.

Marc Owens said...

Great review. My brother and I loved this album when it came out and to this day I do not understand why it wasn't a bigger success. They opened for Cheap Trick touring this album and played a killer set at the Bren Events Center in Irvine. Just a great marriage of funky bass, pounding drums and excellent guitar solos. One of my favorite albums of the 90's!