ALBUM REVIEW: Bai Bang – Sha Na Na Na

ALBUM REVIEW: Bai Bang - Sha Na Na Na

I met the Bai Bang guys back in the States in 2009 at a place called The Backyard Bar in Tulsa Oklahoma when we dropped in to see Gypsy Pistoleros play a warm up gig for their Rocklahoma show. It was a great night and the local act that also played that night was also rather cool (though sadly I forget their name). So there we were – Australians lost in a foreign land with an English ‘Flamenco Sleaze band’ and a Swedish Glam Rock act named after a North Vietnamese paper mill that produced an insane amount of toilet paper. It was a great night and when you added $1 beers and $2 jello shots into the equation and the Pistoleros’ endless supply of Patron Tequila, as well as free pool and the wonderfully friendly locals it was one of those nights that remains etched in the memory.

In 2009 Bai Bang were launching ‘Are You Ready’ – a great record with a line-up that consisted of Diddi Kastenholt on Vocals, Joacim Sandin on Bass, Jonas Langebro on Drums and Pelle Eliaz on Lead Guitar. With a change of drummer to Johnny Benson that line up went on to produce some great records like ‘Livin’ My Dream’ and ‘All Around the World’ (which added second guitarist Jens Lundgren).

Four years later for 2017’s ‘Rock of life’ only Diddi remained.  Two years later in 2019 for the revamp/reworked ‘Best of 4’ (Well worth investing in that one as a taster) only Diddi and new guitarist Filip Wilhelmsson and drummer Oskar Wennberg remained. These days in 2023 there’s a completely new line-up with the Perma-tanned Diddi at the helm along with new guitarists – Pelle Eliasson and Christian Lindberg, new bassist Tobbe Skogh and new drummer Micke Rosengren.

It’s with some trepidation then, that I dive into ‘Sha Na Na Na’ which to those of us old enough conjures up images of the American ‘Rock and Roll, Doo-Wop’ cover group ‘Sha Na Na’ that formed in the late 60’s and paid homage to the sounds of the 50’s! Thankfully aside from the white get up on the cover there are no pompadour or ducktail hairdos and the band hasn’t slipped back a couple of decades sonically!

Opening track ‘Sha Na Na Na’ has an almost Richard Marx vibe to it and an infectious Pop chorus and it’s all rather more poppy than I remember them previously. ‘My Favorite Enemy’ you feel is aiming for a sort of Reckless Love vibe but it’s swing-like groove does it few favors. It’s I Don’t Really Know’ that I think I was waiting for and which sounds far more like the modern Swedish Sleaze that is pretty in vogue at the minute and more like the band of old only with extra Pop weighing down the mix. 

The rest of the album is a bit of a mixed bag really almost like with the new band on board Diddi is searching for that new direction, and in doing so throwing a few things out there to see what sticks. ‘I Know All the Hits’ by way of example, sounds very Eclipse whilst ‘ I Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll’ has more of a Punk vibe, and despite a nice clean production just might be my favourite here – almost Pop Punk with an old school NYC vibe hidden somewhere beneath.

Motivated’ is interesting in that it comes out with a kind of Def Leppard vibe and tempo, even some of the phrasing (Kinda like ‘Animal’) and backing vocals, but there’s no real hook sadly. And with ‘All Alone’ another slower number you feel that teh balance is swayed a little too much in favor of the slower tunes. Nice song though, another of my picks from the record. ‘It’s Enough’ is another mid-tempo number ad to an extent that’s my issue with this record – it is predominantly one paced.

Even a cover of ABBA’s ‘Rock Me’ seems a little of a missed opportunity to really crank it up. We close in style though despite the tempo not really picking up any for ‘Having a Show’ which again hints at that Def Leppard sound with a nice twist; and closer ‘That’s All I Need (Wha Wao Wa)’ that I initially thought was a reprise of the previous song it’s that sonically similar, ain’t bad either.

Aways great to hear something new from Bai Bang, but if you’re starting off with this band perhaps don’t start here.

7 /10



Track list: 1. Sha Na Na Na, 2. My Favorite Enemy, 3. I Don’t Know, 4. I Know All The Hits, 5. I Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll, 6. Motivated, 7. All Alone, 8. It’s Enough, 9. Rock Me, 10. Having a Show 11. That’s All I Need (Wha Wao Wa)


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