Review: Bai Bang – Sha Na Na Na
Pride & Joy Music (March 24th, 2023)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
Bai Bang return with their ninth studio album and a new record label hoping to give them a decent recording budget. This band was always one of my greatest disappointments. I discovered them with 2009’s ‘Are You Ready’, an album that blew me away the first time I heard it. A Poison/LA Guns hybrid with latter day Def Leppard production, it’s one of my favorite albums of that year and was so excited to hear their follow-up that I bought it without hearing one note. That was one of my biggest regrets. 2011’s ‘Livin’ My Dream’ was a sonic nightmare. Incredibly poor production that sounds like an eight-track demo, I could not believe the differences between the two albums. Despite the strong songs, the album is unlistenable. I decided to give them another shot with 2013’s ‘All Around the World’. While that album offered slightly better production, it had little bottom end. The highs are cranked up so loud I had discomfort listening to it with earphones and shelved that album as well. I then decided to give up on the band.
Ten years later and the opportunity arose to review their latest release on Pride & Joy Music, a label that offers quality releases. I decided to give them one more chance…and I’m glad I did. Of the albums I’ve heard from them, this one is their best in fourteen years.
At the very least, it’s an album competently produced by people who know what they’re doing. Producer Pontus Assarson and Mastering Engineer Martin Kronlund have given the band at least a fighting chance in terms of competing with their peers in the ever-growing European rock scene. Some may not like how overproduced the instruments are, removing a lot of their heaviness in search of a more pop-infused sound, but I don’t mind some bands that have productions like this. It differentiates them. Now all they need is to write some great songs. While they are not all winners, there’s some really catchy, pop-infused rock on offer here.
It opens with the title track and their familiar harmonies hit you immediately when one hit of the drums leads right into the chorus. A Wig Wam type of chorus that will stick in your brain like a jingle. Track 2 is not my cup of tea. While it’s not a bad song, ‘My Favorite Enemy’ has a 70s glam fee that never resonated with me. That diversion is brief and we’re immediately brought back to their comfort zone with ‘I Don’t Really Know’ a pop rocker with a similar melody line to their title track. The album shifts gears in the middle and that’s where you’ll find the best songs. It starts with the high-energy party ready ‘I Wanna Rock ‘n Roll’. It’s a premise that’s been covered countless times with a quite familiar riff, but it’s performed effectively and the band sounds like they’re having a blast. ‘Motivated’ sounds highly motivated (pun intended) by the Def Leppard track ‘Hysteria’, just slightly sped up. Since ‘Hysteria’ is one of my favorite songs from them, I consider this the best song on the album. The band slows down for the mid-tempo ‘All Alone’. A synth heavy light and airy track, it’s just the change of pace this album needed to break up the pop rockers. The call and response chorus also makes it a highlight of the album.
Of the remaining four tracks, they are weaker than the first two-thirds of the album. ‘Rock Me’ has a 70s pop sound that does nothing for me. ‘Having a Show’ has too slow a groove and drags. Lyrics about rocking out and a plodding melody seem contradictory. ‘That’s All I Need (Wha Wao Wa)’ is only a tad bit faster tempo wise but still is an uneventful way to end the album.
Considering that I found some of their albums to be unlistenable, this is a grand improvement. This album does not match their top album, ‘Are You Ready’ but there’s a bunch of catchy melodic tracks here and two-thirds of a very good album. If you are down with overproduced tinkering that replaces grit with sheen, then you’re sure to find something to love here.
- Sha Na Na Na
- My Favorite Enemy
- I Don’t Really Know
- I Know All The Hits
- I Wanna Rock ‘n Roll
- All Alone
- It’s Enough
- Rock Me
- Having a Show
- That’s All I Need (Wha Wao Wa)
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