Having won NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest in 2017, New Orleans R&B outfit Tank and the Banga’s had me intrigued. Their smooth, soulful yet funky live session had my hopes raised for their major label debut. But could they get that irresistible live vibe down on tape?
The answer is yes…and no. Green Balloon is a hodgepodge of quality tracks mixed with some mediocre numbers. There’s a slight feeling that they needed someone to impose a restriction or an alternative voice to challenge a decision, in the form of a firmer producer.
Tank and The Banga’s are graced with Robert Glasper for three tracks. “Lazy Daze” is a highlight of the album, but the other two are interludes. One of the best jazz musicians alive, and he’s used on interludes? Come on guys.
Most of the 17 track setlist are very paint by numbers R&B, there’s a sense of disconnect here. The Tiny Desk Concert is so alive and together, but much of this album doesn’t capture that magic.
It’s very obvious which tracks do. “Ants” has the fast-tongued lyricism of Noname, while “Spaceships” has that bubblegum trap energy that made us fall in love with the group. The piano driven ballad “Mr. Lion” is also a stand out, with an acapella verse that shows off Tarronia “Tank” Ball’s vocal versatility.
The other cuts are largely forgettable, showing that, above all, the 65-minute marathon could have greatly benefitted from a serious trimming of tracks. Here’s to Tank and the Bangas rediscovering that spark, and finding a good editor, on later releases.
Brendan is an avid record collector from Adelaide, Australia and the man behind the @ridges_and_grooves. There are few genres he won’t listen to. His search for the best album of all time through process of elimination continues.