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Flash Metal Suicide: Bang Tango

Our Flash Metal Suicide series continues its exploration of the great — and not-so-great — lost albums of the 1980s by examining Bang Tango's 1989 debut, Psycho Café

Bang Tango was basically The Cult for average dopes. I don't think anybody would argue that point, not even Bang Tango. They formed in 1987 from the ashes of go-nowhere Hollywood glamsters City Slick when singer Joe Leste moved to LA from San Diego and taught the other dudes how to wear open-chested flower-printed blouses and medallions and then played them a couple of Southern Death Cult records. Leste even kinda looked like Ian Astbury if you squinted a little, and unlike the actual Cult, they were unencumbered by French symbolist poetry or Salvador Dali's lobster telephone or whatever the fuck Astbury was always prattling on about. They wrote songs about chicks, they dyed their hair black, their bass player thought he was in a funk band. Boom. Another alt-metal band is born. They played their obligatory dues at the usual dives, entertained a minor bidding war, signed to a major label a year or two too late, and released one of the most over the top flash metal records of the era, 1989's Psycho Cafe. It sorta tanked, at least in comparison to a lot of their spandex-clad peers. But did it deserve to? Absolutely. And also definitely not.

Psycho opens with a positive jam, like all records should. It's called Attack of Life. The awkward grammar of the title still bugs me, but what a jam, all punk-fueled bluster and youthful bravado. It's followed by their semi-hit Someone Like You, a swirling, twirling orgy of biker-metal swagger and glittery hooks. It's like Zodiac Mindwarp with zero irony and higher cheek bones. Things get weird from there, with the band wading balls-deep into wobbly blues rock (Wrap My Wings) and bass-popping funk metal (Shotgun Man, Do What You're Told). They also hacksaw an obligatory ballad (Just For You) into bloody chunks along the way. At times, you wonder how any of this actually got made. At least half of Psycho Cafe actually sounds like a ham-fisted satire of the other half. What loony record executive would give the thumbs up to Leste's off-key shrieks or that ridiculous disco bass? It's madness. But that's also what makes it so great. Listening to Psycho Cafe, you get the feeling that anything can happen, like maybe rock n' roll – and in extension, life – is a rubber reality of infinite possibilities. There is another world out there, once clearly a lot ballsier than this one, where Ian Astbury joined Funkadelic, not the Doors. And it worked out fine. In that world, Psycho Cafe outsold Abbey Road. Unfortunately for Bang Tango, we don't live there.

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