Life Among the Ruins Bang Tango - Psycho Cafe (MCA) 1989

1.   Attack Of Life (4:27)
2.   Someone Like You (4:26)
3.   Wrap My Wings  (4:54)
4.   Breaking Up A Heart Of Stone (4:59)
5.   Shotgun Man (3:27)
6.   Don't Stop Now (3:33)
7.   Love Injection (4:37)
8.   Just For You  (4:15)
9.   Do What You're Told (3:28)
10. Sweet Little Razor (5:34)

Bang Tango are one of those bands that I just missed completely when they were new on the scene. They were generally lumped into the 'hair metal' category at the end of the 80's, which to me was bands like Poison, Warrant and Hysteria-era Def Leppard. At the time, I was heavily into thrash metal, the beginnings of death metal and still very much into sleazy, edgy hard rock like Dirty Looks, Faster Pussycat and Dangerous Toys. I didn't give a rip about the more fluff bands that were being labeled metal at the time. It's unfortunate that I didn't give Bang Tango a listen until a couple decades later because "Psycho Cafe" is definitely not fluff. "Psycho Cafe" is funky, sleazy, street rock with a heavy edge and some insanely screechy vocals. Their sound isn't so much "Cherry Pie" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me" but rather parallels bands like Faster Pussycat and Guns 'n Roses with a side of Billy Idol and even a hint of Aerosmith. A song like "Don't Stop Now" has that sleazy swagger that could easily have been on the first Faster Pussycat CD.

Vocalist Joe Lesté has one of those shrill voices that people will either love or hate. It's all about attitude and charisma. At times he has a cool Steven Tyler meets Axl Rose sound, but at others it's almost unworldly. On the album's one ballad, "Just For You", Joe gives a completely raunchy rock and roll performance. About half-way through the song he switches from a clean singing voice to what I can only describe as him shrieking while sitting on the toilet and pushing through constipation. Yes, it's that raunchy! It's so very rock and roll!  Those who prefer the pristine, cookie-cutter American Idol style vocals will hate it. It made me smile.

Bang Tango's MCA debut is actually their second release after an independent live EP. Besides the obvious hard rock influences, "Psycho Cafe" also incorporates elements of funk, with future releases playing up that aspect even further. Much of this has to do with the bass playing of Kyle Kyle who adds a bit of flair to infectious tracks like "Shotgun Man" and "Attack of Life". "Someone Like You" was a minor hit for the band getting the band some MTV play in the heyday of metal videos. Even so, "Psycho Cafe" wasn't a major hit, which for the band I am sure was disappointing. However, despite it's lack of mainstream success, "Psycho Cafe" is a  solid hard rocking album and not the mindless LA fluff that people tend to think it is.

Dancin on Coals Bang Tango - Dancin' on Coals (MCA) 1991

1.   Soul To Soul (4:15)
2.   Untied And True (4:51)
3.   Emotions In Gear (5:02)
4.   I'm In Love (3:33)
5.   Big Line (3:30)
6.   Midnight Struck (7:03)
7.   Dancin' On Coals (5:24)
8.   My Saltine (2:50)
9.   Dressed Up Vamp (4:38)
10. Last Kiss (5:59)
11. Cactus Juice (3:55)

Bang Tango follow-up their MCA debut in 1991 with "Dancin' On Coals" which sees the band taking the funk elements of the debut even further. Whereas that album had a sort of sleazy LA vibe, "Dancin' On Coals" has more in common with Fishbone, Living Colour and (shudder!) the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The albums opening track is pure funk-based rock and roll and is the basis for much of the rest of the album. However, despite the overwhelming amount of funk-influences on this CD, there are other moods a well, such as the more straight-forward rock of "United and True" and the campy "Dressed Up Vamp" which comes the closest to matching the sleazy vibe of "Psycho Cafe". (The song also sounds a bit like Billy Idol.) Album closer "Cactus Juice" most certainly is a nod to Aerosmith, especially with Joe Lesté vocal performance. "Midnight Struck" is the token ballad and successfully strives for a Rolling Stones style country/gospel/rock vibe. Released one or two years earlier, this song probably would have been a hit for the band. Overall, "Dancin' On Coals" is a solid sophomore release even if it is a bit of a departure style-wise.

From the Hip Bang Tango - From the Hip (Parris) 2006

1.  It's All OK (3:14)
2.   Ain't Nothin' Better (2:54)
3.  Go, Go, Go (3:21)
4.  Carry Me Up (3:27)
5.   Mother Mary (3:34)
6.   Get Use To It (2:03)
7.   I'm The One (2:47)
8.   Simple (4:05)
9.   One More Spin (2:45)
10. Angel Devil (3:12)

"From the Hip" is an all new Bang Tango featuring original vocalist Joe LeSte and a completely new band, even different from their 2004 release "Ready to Go". This new band doesn't quite have the groove and funk that the original band had, but rather stick to driving, straight-forward, slightly-modern hard rock. At times the sound is reminiscent of Beautiful Creatures, Faster Pussycat, and even Guns 'n' Roses at times. "It's All OK", "Get Use To It" and "Go, Go, Go" in particular sound like they could have been delivered from the Hollywood strip during the heyday of sleazy heavy metal. "Mother Mary" is not a cover of the UFO classic, though that would have been cool. Rather it's a more straight-forward heavy metal number with a chugging, crunchy riff. "Simple" is the one track that I really couldn't get into. LeSte turns in an ultra-gravely vocal performance for this melodic, blues-based song and it just seems a bit out of place. Otherwise, I found "From the Hip" to be a solid album. It's not mind-blowing or ultra-inventive, but not every album has to be to be fun and enjoyable.

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