Review Summary: RX Bandits produce their greatest album to date as they have mastered their progressive/ska blend.
The RX Bandits Are…
…And The Battle Begun
Matt Embree – Vocals/Guitar
Steve Choi – Guitar/Keyboards
Joseph Troy – Bass
Christopher Sheets – Trombone/Vocals/Percussion
Christopher Tsagakis - Drums
“RX BANDITS thrive on playing live, and have become well known for putting on both physically and musically explosive shows. For them musicianship is paramount and is always the top priority which is why the band's 5 th album 2006's "...And the Battle Begun", and their previous release 2003's "'The Resignation' were both recorded live. RX BANDITS then make it a priority to go about making sure that they create a unique and different experience from those recordings for their live shows.”
Yes everyone, the crystal-clear production and flawless performance you hear on ...And The Battle Begun
is recorded live to prove to you that RX Bandits rips it up live, so go see them and tell me how they are. : ) Keep this in mind when you listen. It makes it all the better.
As for the new material, it is all equally amazing. This was my first RX Bandits album, and I was absolutely blown away by the energy and emotion that comes from listening to their music. I still have yet to see them live, and I must say I can’t wait for them to arrive somewhere near me. Each song usually falls under two categories. It’s either fast-paced, energetic ska, or relaxed reggae. Either way you hear it, it’s brilliant. No one song on this album is bad (though some are average).
Untitled – Untitled
is a simple little intro track to this album that is entirely a’cappella that is extremely well-done for a 45 second song. It just shows what you what Embree has in store vocal-wise.
And the Battle Begun
– Quite possibly one of the greatest ways to open up an album. Ever. The song enters with a simple drumbeat fading in, and Embree’s entrancing mellow singing comes in softly over it with a palm-muted chord progression. One element that you don’t find in your run-of-the-mill ska band is atmospheric keyboards, which also bubble in during this section. The song crescendos into the first addicting catchy chorus. The guitars sound wonderful, and a lot like Omar’s tone from The Mars Volta. The sparing use of horns is a very nice touch, also. A nice delayed-guitar-ridden bridge with a little BASS SOLO (nothing much), and the song comes to a close with a final chorus. Awesome.
In Her Drawer
– Here we have another highlight from the album (there are quite a few of those). It kicks off with another drum intro, but it’s much more complicated than the previous song’s. Then we kick into full gear with a very upfront presence from the horns section. Embree’s lyrical songwriting shines here.
“Doctors say that I'm insane
While rectangles now to concentrate
Another yellow to relax
Scribbled down solutions to erase the past”
We’re then treated to some more frighteningly catchy verses and choruses. After a small solo on the keys, the song increases in tension with Embree chanting “Would you? Would you ever?” and the song erupts into the chorus once more. The song closes with the way it opened up. Perhaps the best use of the horns is in this song.
Only For The Night
– This is the third entirely solid song in a row from the start of the album. It’s slower paced than the previous two, but that doesn’t reduce any of the energy you felt with those. This is the only song I’ve had trouble placing in one of the two categories this album’s music falls into, as it could fit in either. It is mellow for the most part, yet it picks up in the chorus. The use of horns is very present in this song, yet they are still used sparingly. At about 2:10 a drum section enters and Embree’s voice is faintly heard in the background wailing away. Reenter chorus and end.
On A Lonely Screen
– The effect this song has on the album is like running full speed down a straight road and then hitting a brick wall. This song is neither outstanding or too terribly bad, but it kills the energy that was flowing from the first three songs. At 2:44, it is the shortest song on the album, but at 2:44, it still goes nowhere at all.
– Picking back up from the lowest point of an album is never easy, but 1980
does it very well. It enters with no fancy intro at the fastest tempo heard on the album so far with spastic guitars much like Omar Rodriguez (TMV reference #2), and it maintains sounding very punk until the singing arrives in the first verse. The chorus consists of the same lyrics chanted in the album’s intro. Another short keyboard solo reminiscent of In Her Drawer’s
enters and Embree lays more of his mellow vocals down over it. Great song, and much needed after the killjoy of On A Lonely Screen
One Million Miles An Hour, Fast Asleep
– The raw power of a single-coiled guitar rips into the fastest song on the album. This song is probably the most complex in technicality, with fast guitar riffs and fills. When the song approaches the end, it slows down slightly and the guitar changes to a reggae-style pattern, which transitions well into the next track.
– Right after the swiftest track we get the mellowest. It’s a pleasant change from the heart-pumping action to this relaxing reggae tune. It retains a unique feel with the atmospheric keyboard tumbling down over the funky riffing. This is probably the most straightforward song on …And The Battle Begun
, and contains one of the catchiest choruses overall, which is saying quite a lot considering the other contenders on here.
Now meet Apparition’s
superior, A Mouth Full Of Hollow Threats
. This is the greatest of the reggae songs, and probably the best on the album. It contains the most aggressive lyrics and singing here than any of the fast-paced tracks, yet retains the smooth and cool feel. I believe I also read somewhere that this song was a direct reanalysis of a Bob Dylan song.
“Yes you, Mr. Untouchable, you're pointing all your fingers through5/5 FTW
putting guns in the hands of our children,
are their lives just a game to you?
Tell me is your money that good? Will it buy you love?
Do you think that it could?
The wheels still spinning & it's coming around
all it takes is a spark to burn it all down”
– Now for the epic progressive track, clocking in at 6:04 as the longest song. Not one second is boring at all. It stays close to the traditional RX Bandits catchy verses and choruses and sparing use of horns… that is until we reach 2:30 into the song, in which the song goes into some jam-bandish guitar wankery, then heads into a soft section with Embree crooning over ambient piano and delayed guitars. The tension builds and the song quickly speeds back up and up and up, and the song climaxes with the ending chorus, and then resolves with a piano outro and some backwards vocals.
– The song starts with a very odd time-signature and very spastic guitar. This is perhaps the most experimental song next to the previous. Guitars alternate, the bass takes the spotlight during the verses with a very groovy bass line, and strange lyrics apparently anti-racism. Correct me if I’m wrong, please.
“The first step's so called education4/5
To Our Unborn Daughters
next chapter is assimilation
We keep you pacified so you will follow
It's a stand in line conglomerate
in a bigot workshop mortuary
We keep you satisfied so you will swallow”
– The other low point of the album is the fetus song (lol). It sounds forced and is a lot longer than it should be (5:14). It starts off with a bass intro, and some rather unemotional singing mixed into the background behind some more effect-laden guitar wanking. It just never seems to pick up at any point during the song. The majority of it is just effects and a repeating outro riff.
- …But we’re still given another dose of adrenaline in this great album closer. The chorus is rather boring, but right after the first one, Embree’s vocals grab a hint of insanity which sound pretty awesome. The song comes to an abrupt halt, and after a brief vocal harmony, the song explodes into some of the greatest riffing presented here. Once again, the song stops and we have some more mellow vocals and keys, but the song closes out with what can only be described with one word: epic.
…And The Battle Begun
is a monster of an album, incorporating the unique blend of two unlikely genres, progressive and ska. On a first listen it may sound like your average, yet undeniably catchy, ska punk band, but there’s much more than what is heard first. There are layers of guitars and keys piled on top of each other to create an atmosphere never before heard in ska, which add to this band’s fantastic originality. However, the only things that bring this album down are the two aforementioned tracks and the album’s replay value. After listening to this for a while, it gets really old, and it’ll be days, sometimes weeks before it starts sounding good again. Some of the choruses are repetitive, and there seems to be a similar structure to every song. On the other hand, this is still extraordinary and unique music that I guarantee will enjoy anyone who is a fan of ska, progressive, or just rock in general.