Monday, May 9, 2011

Bang Tango - Psycho Cafe

One of the funnest things about this mysterious world that we call Ripple is that we don't always agree with each other.  Often times, I'll look at Pope's musical discoveries with a look of utter dismay, and Pope will return the favor by addressing my choices with pure boredom.  It's what makes the world revolve.  We all like different things.  We all dig different sounds.  The job of the Ripple is merely to tell you, our waveriders, what each one of us hears in a piece of music and how it gets us off.

Never is this dichotomy between the Pope and I made more clear than with Bang Tango.

I remember years ago when we first discussed these guys, Pope dismissed them completely with a brief wave of his hand, a shrug of his shoulders, and a look that closely approximated an acute onset of food poisoning.  I, on the other hand, found them oddly compelling with their massive bass heavy groove, dark glam, and sizzling guitars.  In truth, I understand exactly where Pope was coming from, and in many ways it represents the very problems that this LA quintet faced in making it big.  Pope was a metalhead.  He came from the point of view of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, even Guns and Roses.  When he heard Bang Tango his knee jerk response was, "this ain't metal."  And it ain't.

I came from a post punk world where bands like The Cult, Sisters of Mercy, Mission UK, and Specimen ruled my orgasmic listening times.  Yet, I'd been a metalhead, trouncing heads to the early NWOBHM terrors of Iron Maiden (Dianno years), Angelwitch, Witchfynde, Saxon, and Motorhead.  In Bang Tango I found the perfect mathematical union of two sets.  The aggression, riffing and searing leads of metal fused to that pulsating, dark post-punk glam of the early Cult.

And listening to this newly MetalMind re-issued disc, I still do.

Bang Tango never really had a chance to get the respect they deserved.  Being part of the LA Sunset Strip scene of the late '80's, they were immediately lumped in with the hair metal bands that ruled the streets.  And with the dual guitars of Mark Knight and Kyle Stevens and some serious Slash-esque riffing, they immediately did nothing to dispel that association.  But they weren't metal.  In singer Joe LeSte they had a shrieker of undefined tone.  He could belt out metal, he could scream out a post-punk frenzy.  He could harmonize some glam.  And in bass player Kyle Kyle and kit pounder Tigg Kelter they had a backing section that really wanted nothing more than to lay down some serious funk.  And they all had the look.  I mean, The Look, with chiseled cheekbones, dyed hair, and an image taken from The Cult's Love album.

Funk.  Glam.  Goth.  Metal.   That's Bang Tango.

And I dig it.

And maybe it's because Bang Tango were so many disparate things that they still sound so fucking good to my ears today.  Disclaimer.  I've had Psycho Cafe in my collection for years and I'd pulled it off the shelves not infrequently, as I have with Dancin' on Coals, their follow-up.  Having said that, to me, Bang Tango have aged much better than most of the Sunset Strip crap that came out in the late eighties.  Kyle's bass thuds and pulses with more unbridled sex than I ever heard before.  Joe's vocals screech and dive and seduce with more passion.  And the dual guitars shred with more metal velocity than I ever gave them credit.  Basically, this shit is just plain ol' good glam metal and definitely worth a revisit in 2011.

Psycho Cafe let's it all out right there on the first number.  From the muted guitar, bass, and effect opening of "Attack of Life," right into that throbbing post-gothic metal riff.  Both guitars blaze and steam through this baby.  When LeSte comes in, shrieking in full higher octave, we're in a full on glam blitzkrieg.  Some may not dig his voice.  Some may call if forced.  I dig it.  Full on dig it.   The song quickly locks into a comfortable groove that I'm sure tore it up live.  Then as LeSte drops his voice to a lower register for the kick-ass chorus, I realize who these guys really were.  It may sound strange but they were the American Billy Idol, marrying that image, that post punk vitality, that snotty sneer to some beefy metal riffs and serving that whole thing on a steaming platter of funky pop.  Maybe a touch of the Cult also.  Either way, they were much more Red Hot Chili Peppers than they were Metallica

"Someone Like You," is of course the piece de resistance on the album and probably the song the band is best remembered for.  With it's "Sweet Child of Mine" harmonic-laden intro to it's staggering build up beat, this certainly seemed to be metal at home on the Strip.  Then comes that breakdown, Kyle's massively funky bass and the chugging guitar riff that revs and soars like a charging locomotive.  LeSte's voice is all over the place here, shrieking and wailing like a siren, then bottoming out in Billy Idol baritone.   Guitar solos whip in and out like hornets buzzing from a hive under attack.  This is truly one of my favorite goth/glam/funk/metal tunes of all time.  A hands-over-the-head screamer.

"Wrap My Wings," seems to settle into a monstrously funky mid-tempo groove that just oozes sex appeal.  Again, Stevens and Knight prove that they were vastly under-rated axemen, sizzling their strings with wailing electric solos.   Too goth/funk for metal?  Too metal for the goth crowd?  Probably.  That's probably why the album never broke big.  I'd have liked to see these cats play this shit at the infamous London Batcave goth club and see how it would've been received.  Would they have got it?  Would it have been too metal?  Did the boys need a club scene all their own?  Who knows. All I know is that to this post-punk metalhead, this is some seriously fun stuff.

"Breaking Up a Heart of Stone," lays it all back on the line, with it's bass-laden groove.  The bridge brings in a touch of pop as the song roars to it's big chorus hook.  I'm sure back in the day, the chicks dug this one cause it rocked and you could move your ass to it.  "Shotgun Man," roars back with a hyped up metal guitar attack, but as always the funk is still there.  Percolating under LeSte's shrieking.   Bookending that chunky guitar-burst chorus.  Kyle really goes out of his skull on this one, popping and thumping that bass as if he was auditioning for Parliment or the Bar-Kays.   Other songs like the chugging "Don't Stop Now," the intensely funky "Love Injection" the somber "Just for You," and the frenzy-neo-metallic-Chili-Peppers funk freak of "Do What Your Told" keep the energy raving and explore all the aspects of this band.  In fact, "Do What Your Told" is such an ecstasy burst of fiery alt-funk metal that it's shocking the song wasn't bigger.

So where does this leave us?  In my mind, Bang Tango were a band that was vastly misunderstood.  Lumped in with the hair metal scene, it's no wonder many metalheads dismissed them.  They were too different.  Way too different.   Perhaps like another lost Sunset Strip casualty, Bang Bang, these cats were simply too many things for people to identify with.  They had a unique sound when every band sounded the same.  They had a unique look when the others all looked the same.  

But it's this difference that captivates me.  Glam, funk, goth, metal.  They were a little bit of it all and brewed their swirling fury into an intoxicating beverage that still goes down extremely easy today.

--Racer

buy here: Psycho Cafe





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