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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

CD Review: Bang Tango - Psycho Cafe Reissue

Bang Tango - Psycho Cafe Reissue
2011 Metal Mind Productions
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Never discount the long-lasting power of MTV when its primary function was still relegated to music. Case in point, Bang Tango.

If you bring up Bang Tango's name to most rock and metal aficianados, nine out of ten are going to answer in the following manner: "Ahh, yeah, I remember that band. "Someone Like You" was such a great song!" The reason for this was due to MTV's extensive play of the "Someone Like You" video and its successor "Breaking Up a Heart of Stone." "Someone Like You" was a staple on the original Headbangers Ball and it eventually crossed over into the mainstream rotation, if even only for a spell in 1989.

Granted, most people never got around to Bang Tango's debut album Psycho Cafe, but they are now. Of late a sought-after nugget in the American metal revival, Bang Tango is reconnecting with its original audience and some late bloomers who have begun to discover the merits of this rock-metal-glam-wah-funk hybrid. It's common knowledge Bang Tango died ahead of their time and the in-house destruction has been felt in later years with its players having formed mini camps when the itch to tour bites them.

Yet Psycho Cafe represents one of the original wave of heavy metal's last hurrahs. Coupled with the subsequent Dancin' On Coals, Psycho Cafe may have been birthed in the wake of Guns n' Roses and Hanoi Rocks, but it marks a transitional wipeaway of the LA sweat and sleaze that dominated hard rock for most of the eighties. If Psycho Cafe had been the last glam album ever laid down, nobody would've argued the subgenre went out in style.

Metal Mind brings us reissues of Bang Tango's first two studio albums and their live EP Ain't No Jive...Live. Huzzah to that. Even if Bang Tango had to squeeze shoulders with LA Guns and Faster Pussycat, both of whom had staked out sizeable followings of their own, Bang Tango took it to another level with their greasy blues and Hendrix funk stylizations. Dancin' On Coals is the funkier of their first two records, yet Psycho Cafe is a strut more than a dance. It's also louder than bombs at times.

"Attack of Life" opens Psycho Cafe with a 'bangin' sashay and chunky, echoing riffs. It serves as a metal megaphone to kick the album off with a heavier dose than most of Bang Tango's softsoap contemporaries of the day. Psycho Cafe then snarls into their calling card "Someone Like You" as Joe LeSte rides the furrow of Bang Tango's hump groove with a possessive vocal range between sultry and slinky. "Someone Like You" is as perfect a hard rock jam as you'll find in Hairball Heaven, because it delivers the thrust promised by the crank-waggling bass licks from Kyle Kyle.

For this writer's purposes, Bang Tango's other hit from Psycho Cafe, "Breaking Up a Heart of Stone" is just a click better for its variations, soulful choruses, crushing beat and diddy-do guitars which whisper, reverb and then bellow. Carrying a hair more depth than "Someone Like You," "Breaking Up a Heart of Stone" is Psycho Cafe's insurance policy. It delivers the promise built up by the first three songs, including "Wrap My Wings."

"Wrap My Wings" also brings some serious amplitude and a catty set of riffs, not to mention a sprinkle of progression in the song's breakdown. Where Bang Tango begins to dally with the funk on Psycho Cafe is the bass-plunking wailfest of "Shotgun Man," the supercalifragisexy slide on the verses of "Love Injection" and the uppity hotfooting of "Do What You're Told."

The electric ala carte served by Psycho Cafe is broken up by the acoustic ballad "Just For You." One would have to be surprised this gazing ditty didn't become a de facto hit because of the glut of hard rock love that dominated the scene at this point in time. Smart move to avoid the obvious or would "Just For You" have kept Bang Tango in the ears of hard rock nation a little longer?

Well, the answer is obvious. Despite the brackish hip-slinging through the closing track "Sweet Little Razor," Psycho Cafe's staying power was limited, despite a darned fine effort. You can't ask for a better smoker to round out an album than "Sweet Little Razor," but history reminds us the wrist cutting gloom of grunge would win favor in North America. There was nothing sweet about those razors; thank God for Sonic Youth, Today is the Day and Mudhoney.

Bang Tango was a great band. Spectacular, maybe not, but for their brief mark upon hard rock, they had plenty more in the tanks and were robbed of their chance to cruise true. The same could be said of many of Bang Tango's peers since product cycling is the enemy and ultimately the propagator.

Rating: ****

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