Monday, April 18, 2011

regarding Rx Bandits.

After 16 years together, California ska/prog act Rx Bandits have decided to break up. I know that called them ska/prog might seem contradictory, but bear with me.

Rx Bandits were one of the first ska bands I ever got into (along with Less Than Jake), as well as one my entry points into punk rock. When I was 14, pop-punk took over my mind. And for a while, I got all of my pop-punk from one label, Drive-Thru Records: New Found Glory, Allister, Fenix TX, and more filled my earholes. I heard Rx Bandits through the label's You'll Never Eat Fast Food Again compilation and then picked up their record Halfway Between Here and There. It was a pretty catchy '90s album, although somewhat atypical.

Then Progress came out in 2001 and changed everything. The band took on a heavier guitar sound while preserving their Jamaican influence. The lyrics became much more socio-political. While I had been a Rage Against the Machine fan in middle school, Rx Bandits caught me just as I was beginning to develop my own opinions on the world.

The Resignation followed in 2003, continuing the Bandits' shift into prog-ska, but the songs maintained a nice balance between horns and guitars. '03 is when I started to think maybe frontman Matt Embree wasn't the best lyricist out there; his tunes started to sound clumsy to me (Check out opener "Sell You Beautiful" and tell me what you think). By the time ...And the Battle Begun dropped in 2006, the Bandits had shifted into aimless jamming and wankery. I forgot Mandala came out in 2009 until I looked at the group's Wikipedia page a couple of minutes ago.

But for a while there, they put on electric live shows and dropped amazing ska records. They came into my life at an important, formative time, and I'll always treasure those years spent obsessing over how good Christopher Tsagakis was at drums or how Embree had this knack for playing along with the snare rolls for added percussive effect.

That said, I put Halfway Between Here and There on in the car with some friends on Saturday, and we all collectively cringed when we heard the line "What if I told you / That you're a stupid whore" from "What If." I think you needed to be young to get into Rx Bandits, and I'm not sure if the next generation of youths will appreciate them.

But I liked them.

1 comment:

Nate said...

Mastering the List is pretty dope, though.