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Dick the System

Bang Tango always seemed to be one of those bands with impeccably bad timing. With a style rooted in the “hair band” tradition and a name rooted in “cock rock” decadence, their first album, Psycho Café, arrived in 1989. Or just as grunge was quickly taking main stage for those who prefer their rock heavily amplified. Through the ‘90s the band broke up and reformed numerous times with a revolving group of musicians backing lead vocalist Joe LesTé. Despite a successful national tour in 1999, when the grunge style was waning and a nostalgia-based “hair” revival became in vogue, the band found themselves without any takers for an album in progress. Bang Tango became essentially an on-off touring outfit for LesTé in the new millennium – which included many stops in the conservative Midwest where change comes slowly and nostalgia for “the good ol’ days” belies the reality of just how good or bad those days may have been.

For those along the Bible Belt, bands such as Bang Tango have a natural appeal. The genre is dominantly white, dominantly male, and resistant to change. And whatever Saturday night sins are pronounced, there is always the prospect of Sunday morning salvation. These attitudes are carefully nurtured from the pulpit on Sunday. And through the dominance of conservative talk radio on the airwaves throughout the rest of the week. Indeed, the basic sound of Bang Tango’s’ new album is virtually unchanged from it’s 1989 debut – a span of 23 years! Nationally syndicated music shows like Dee Snider’s “House of Hair” and Nikki Sixx’ “Sixx Sense” prove to be immensely popular throughout the heartland.

Which brings us to Pistol Whipped in the Bible Belt – 5 years in the making and a change in focus for the genre of “hair metal.” Sure – sexual innuendo – a foundation of the genre’s topic matter – still plays a roll. But Bang Tango has changed the game plan. Rather than working as a celebration of male dominance, Pistol Whipped in the Bible Belt employs it as a metaphor for societal ills.

In the album’s opening track, “Dick in the System,” LesTé makes it immediately known that this album isn’t going to have traditional hair band nuance. “I don’t want no assembly line… No, I don’t need no assembly line tryin’ to make me.” LesTé’s use of “girlfriend” as a metaphor for the American Dream, becomes quickly apparent with such lines as “My girlfriend’s got a dick in the system – the system ain’t me” and “don’t you try to tell me, ‘cause I don’t give a fuck what you say.” LesTé isn’t talking about “trains” – he’s talking revolution.

The chosen title of Bang Tango’s album points to the Midwest as the intended target of what could be considered a theme album. “Dick in the System” is followed immediately by “Suck It Up,” with it’s anthem-like refrain of “Hey, hey, hey, you better find your way!”

The theme of change (if you want it) runs throughout Pistol Whipped in the Bible Belt, with such songs as “Bring On the World,” “Live Life,” the aforementioned tracks, and the title track.

As the Occupy Together movement moves toward “mass” throughout the country, many conservative Midwest communities seem inspired towards change, but are having a more difficult time gaining their footing. Pistol Whipped in the Bible Belt not only changes the focus of hair metal – it serves as a call to arms to their largest constituency – a social group where politeness plays a big part, where socialism is demeaned from the pulpit, and where there is a resistance to the more radical tactics of their coastal cousins. Bang Tango’s timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Bill Glahn writes the RIAA Watch column for CounterPunch. He is a frequent contributor to Rock and Rap Confidential.