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Bango

Bango

(Shadoks Music; US: 23 Aug 2005; UK: Available as import)

This reissue of the lone 1970 album by some Brazilian Cream wannabes comes from the same good people who brought us the Love Peace & Poetry compilations of international garage and psych—solid collections, but notable primarily for their peculiar cover art, vintage-looking photos of the same smiling, sensual blonde woman, equally pleased to be cavorting on sofas and on beaches. That an image of her grooming herself and making bedroom eyes at the photographer has no real connection with psychedelic Asian noise rock doesn’t prevent it from being extremely effective at conjuring a specific and alluring nostalgia for a time that never was, a time when pretty girls rather than merely balding record-store habitués were totally into impossibly obscure garage-rock songs from the far East—that such gems as Mogollar’s “Katip Arzvhalim Yaz Yare Boyle” filled girls with an irresistible urge to shag wildly on the beach in their bikinis.


Bango is allegedly a much-sought-after rarity on the psych collector’s market; presumably Brazilian psych-rock records didn’t have as wide a distribution as, say, the Quicksilver Messenger Service, whose records provide one with a very similar sonic experience. The collector’s aura and the international pedigree of this album shouldn’t mislead anyone into thinking it’s anything other than a run-of-the-mill psych record, however. Give the band credit for some creepy cover art—four bleeding heads on a platter resting on the wings of an enormous vulture—and for having mastered some rudimentary English, which they brandish on the “Proud Mary” knockoff “Rolling like a Boat.” But don’t expect anything revolutionary or surprising: Bango fulfills any expectations one has of the psychedelic-rock genre without ever transcending them. Os Mutantes this is not. That groundbreaking Brazilian band presented a dazzling mélange of stylistic influences held together by an irreverent and unpredictable sense of humor, impeccable and inventive musicianship, and memorable melodies. Whereas Bango’s album consists of spirited but slightly inept recastings of familiar songs like Los Bravos’ “Black Is Black” or the Outsiders’ “Time Won’t Let Me” into a different idiom. If you prefer “Motor Maravilha” to “Black Is Black,” it’s only because you’ve heard “Black Is Black” ten thousand times.


“Inferno no Mundo”, which was included on one of the Love Peace & Poetry comps, is the best track here—clumsy but searing blues licks played through overworked fuzz box while an organ churns relentlessly in the background. If it was sung in Swedish rather than Portuguese, you might think it was Dungen. The only other track approaching that level of inspired chaos is the sublimely titled “Rock Dream,” which features Shaggsian drumming, an oozing guitar howl and some agitated shrieking from the lead singer (something about “music forward” instead of “plastic flowers” maybe?) over a monotonous lick that sounds like “Communication Breakdown” played at molasses-drip speed. Much of the rest is tame but pleasant: mid-tempo sunshine pop complete with tuneful harmonies. “Geninha” wouldn’t be out of place on a Ripples compilation. “Marta, Zeca, O Padre, O Prefesi O Doutor e Eu” might be an engaging piece of whimsy, but it’s impossible to know without a lyric sheet.


Aside from the humble pleasures of genre listening, of hearing unknowns execute a cherished musical formula, the only pleasures owning a disc like this can provide stem from it’s rarity (you might impress other collectors with having found something like this out) and its exoticness (you might convince yourself something profound is happening because you can’t really understand what it is). Both these pleasures are threatened by the eventual re-release of everything and the capacity the Internet furnishes to distribute everything everywhere. Collectors have their vinyl fetish to cling to but they can no longer pretend that it’s the quality of the music that licenses their madness. With once-rare music like Bango demystified, those interested in music for the sake of music and not the sake of amassing artifacts will perhaps be less tempted to waste their time trying to imagine what some impossibly obscure curio sounds like and will put more effort into appreciating the brilliant music that is in plain view.

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Robert Horning has developed a substantial body of work in PopMatters' music reviews, concerts, film, and TV sections. His writing has also appeared in Time Out New York and Skyscraper. In his PopMatters column, "Marginal Utility", Rob bridges the abstract and concrete aspects of consumerism. His writing is as grounded and approachable as an everyday trip to the grocery store. Rob has a BA and MA in English Literature; his interests in social theory, economics, and sociology generates his solid background knowledge for "Marginal Utility" and informs his music reviews. For more Rob Horning, be sure to read the Marginal Utility blog.


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