ТАНГРА (TANGRA) – Тангра II (Tangra II) (1986)

Review by: Victor Guimarães
Album assigned by: Nina A

Music is known for having no boundaries. One good example is listening to Tangra (Тангра in the good cyrillic alphabet). A very popular band in the 80s and 90s, the band brings some of the Bulgarian rock and new wave scene. Their name, Tangra, is based on the sky god Tengri (spellings may vary), the main god of the old Turkic pantheon, also venerated by old Bulgar people.
 
This record, II, as the name implies, is their second album. In this easy-to-listen 10-track work, Tangra shows they can hold their own in the new wave scene, not being left behind by the genre big shots. In general, the record’s got a pop approach, intrinsic to the new wave movement, but it stands out due to good vocals, good guitar riffs, the fair share of electronic beats and lots of ooh-ooooohs.
 
With the help of modern-day wonders, such as translating tools, it was also possible to check the lyrics. While not a conceptual, philosophical album, the sky-god crew did a nice job as lyrics range from the love song and hit “До последен дъх” (“Till The Last Breath”) to the modern-day routine critic “Делник” (“Workday”), to the metaphorical “Оловният войник” (“The Lead Soldier”) and to a heavy break-up (that I hope it’s not a suicide) letter in “Така стоят нещата” (“That’s How Things Are”).
 
This trip to Bulgaria was a very pleasant experience as Tangra made me listen again to 80s music. If you’re looking for a good new wave band that haven’t gone astray from rock, Тангра is more than worth a shot.
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Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC: 1982 – ТАНГРА (TANGRA) – Нашият град (Our Town)

Review by Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by Nina A

 

Tangra is another famous Bulgarian band, at least in Bulgaria. Funny Wikipedia fact: after 1989, an interesting time to be an eastern European band, they actually lived and performed in Finland for a few years. I do not know the mechanics or background of that. Far be it from me to suggest this was some self-imposed exile, perhaps they moved to a place where they were internationally successful or thought they could conquer the world.
Anyway, the title song starts the album off on a bad note: it sounds like a desperate entry in the Eurovision song contest. Generic power pop, not unlike Van Halen or Bon Jovi. When the second song, Boriana, starts along the same lines: 80’s production, silly synthesizer lines, generic guitar sounds, simple bass playing and drumming (well, with the cymbal work being OK), I’m getting worried: I recently had the chance to review a few obscure eastern European bands, Shtourcite and FSB, and they were very interesting, a lot of fun and on a good day simply good albums. This sounds nothing like it.
Third song, Panelen rock, a 50’s rock song parody (or cover). Guitar is fine, background vocals are OK, but this is somewhat difficult to take seriously. The Love We Cannot Do Without is the ballad. Although it’s very bad, I’m starting to feel some sympathy.
Must be difficult, considering the political situation, to get a recording contract at all, give the guys some credit. No pop culture, hardly any international exposure, there are a lot of mitigating circumstances. But I remind myself that other artists could break through this. It doesn’t have to be like this.
A Girl From the Other Class is Panelen rock – the sequel. Again, not really bad per se. Perhaps it’s the way Bulgaria got in touch with western civilization. But I think a carbon copy of any musical genre is not the best way to position yourself as an artist. There is no unique sound, no character (national or individual), nothing. Then again, this is not unlike some albums by Johnny Hallyday in France in the 60’s, which DID establish him as a force in French rock music.
Wealth is a little more country and western, with some CCR thrown in. OK. Meetings is the second ballad, piano based this time. Starts somewhat promising, with drums and bass joining in. The singing drags it down, being overly theatrical. Rhythmically, the chorus (which is when they go in power ballad mode) doesn’t really work for me, but I have to acknowledge that they may have something here.
Friends is their nervous pop song. I guess you had to be there. In fact, I recognize this type of music as very much of its time, in the Netherlands and Germany as well, for instance. The simple piano motif at the start evolves to become something of a Won’t Get Fooled Again sound when the song gets heavier, but the guitar doesn’t really get to rock out hard (also because the keyboard strangely sounds like some weird accordion…).
Saturday, well I could almost imagine it being played by Pink Floyd for the Wall. Also because David Gilmour could help a lot to improve the song. It’s still nothing too special, but it’s also not too bad.
Homecoming starts with some acoustic guitars, it’s the campfire song! Is that Neil Young singing in the background? I do like the electric guitar tone: well played, and well recorded.
What to make of it? Did the album really get quite a lot better as it went on, or did I lower my standards? I’m afraid I have to confirm that I most likely lowered my standards. Ultimately, it’s not the utter disaster it sounded like at first, but I do not feel the need to give it another listen, which in itself says a lot. Ordinary, quite competent band, nice for local weddings and larger parties, but not a very rewarding listen in the end for me. No great compositions, no amazing instrumental skills, ordinary singing (with a rather nasal sounding voice) and really nothing that stands out.