Saturday, April 11, 2015

Not What I Expected

I got this CD in the early '90s for the song "Soul to Soul," which was getting airplay on several of the stations I listened to in Dallas at the time. Based on that one song, I was expecting edgy, unpredictable indie rock with a lot of creative modulations -- depending on how generous you are, "Soul to Soul" has six or eight distinct motifs, as compared to the typical pop song's three to five.

So when I put it on for my first listen, I was gravely disappointed that the rest of the CD sounded to me like nothing more than a proficient '80s hair metal band. None of the other tracks had nearly the complexity of "Soul to Soul," and as my disappointment mounted, track 6 came along and served up the ultimate hair band crime: an obligatory ballad with the acoustic guitar-strum lead-in joined by humming and/or whistling on the part of the lead singer.

I tried to give the album several more shots, then wrote it off as the work of a thoroughly indistinctive band that happened to exceed their capabilities for a single, lucky song. Because I'm a pack rat, the CD stayed on the shelf or in a box through four or five moves. I think I tried to sell it to CD Exchange once and they didn't want it.

But I reached the B stretch of my collection for this feature, and I didn't want to go straight into the Beatles, and I was also curious as to why I'd bought "Dancin' on Coals" in the first place, since I couldn't even remember the title of the one song I'd liked. So into the car CD player it went.

And darned if it's not a pretty good album!

This time around, instead of expecting edgy, unpredictable indie rock, I was expecting boring late '80s hair-band music. And the CD turned out to be just as far from that prediction as from my original expectation in 1990. Bang Tango, at least in this incarnation, blends funk-metal, glam-metal, and some alt rock stylings into a highly listenable concoction full of blistering guitars and amazingly inventive bass parts, making it hard to believe that I mistook this for hair metal, which almost always relies on alternating two-tone eighth-note thudding for its bass lines. There are saxaphones and harmonica solos, and even some gospel-ish backing singers on "Midnight Struck" -- the song I mistook for a cliche hair-band ballad -- and none of it's thrown in; every song is carefully and solidly arranged with thoughtful layers and variations from verse to verse. The production values are great without the CD being overproduced or glitzed-up. It's just all-out solid rock and roll, very well put together.

And "Soul to Soul," far from being just a kind of cool song, is downright incredible.

So thanks, CD Exchange, for turning this one down, if I'm remembering that part of the story right!

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