Review Summary: P.E.P.S - Political Emotional Progressive Ska
The title of RX Bandits’ fourth album; “The Resignation”, is fitting because in a way, it was the band’s act of resigning from their former third wave ska sound. Although, the horns were still in place, the band took a big leap from the fun, sometimes silly, typical, sound of ska bands. On their 2001 release, “Progress”, the band hinted at more serious, mature subject matters, but on “The Resignation”, they dove head first and tackled the issues of politics and war, all while displaying a more progressive rock oriented sound.
The first four songs of the album are filled to the brim with angst-ridden lyrics about the band’s disgust for modern day society. On the punky opener “Sell You Beautiful”, singer Matt Embree says, “Look who’s got a new nose, plastic lips and fake tits. Ever tasted silicon" I’ve got scars on my eyes." Likewise, "Prophetic" and "Newstand Rock (Exposition)" are both hard-hitters that mock modern society.
While the first three songs are all fast-paced, and lean more towards the rock side of RX’s style, the fourth song “Overcome (The Recapitulation)” is a reggae number and heralded as a classic by many fans. Again, Matt Embree lays his strong feelings on politics on a plate for listeners to gobble up. As the pace of the song gradually quickens Embree repeatedly sings, “We’ve had enough of these politicians’ wars. What we need right now is love”. Again, it’s very in-your-face but, no doubt, one of the catchiest songs on the record.
The middle section of “The Resignation” is some of the strongest material RX Bandits have ever written. Lyrically, they take a break from the political lecturing and focus more on personal topics. “Never Slept So Soundly”, perhaps the highlight track on the album, is about a lost lover of Matt’s and his life collapsing around him. The song is composed of mostly clean guitars and chord-chopping, much like ska bands do, and paired with the strong, poetic lyrics, it becomes one of the catchiest and emotionally captivating songs. “Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers” is the only full-blow ska song on the album featuring terrific horn work by Chris Sheets and Steven Borth II. Matt’s voice is absolutely soulful as he sings about a woman, using her as a metaphor for drug abuse.
Continuing the strong middle section is the monster, hard-rocker song, “Mastering the List”. Of every track on the album, it best displays the Bandits’ metamorphic progressive ska sound. Matt Embree and Steve Choi’s dual guitar attack works to perfection on this one.
“Pal-Treaux”, the second to last song on the album, throws listeners for a spin with its pleasant, poppy melody and sloppy but upbeat guitars. It’s the lightest song on the album until about 3:47 when the bands abruptly stops and scream together, “What it is to desire!” They blast into a bombastic, minor-key-oriented riff-fest so that they can effortlessly transition into the band’s best known song “Decrescendo”. While with some bands the most popular song is not the best, with RX Bandits, “Decrescendo” is best known for a reason. An explosion of power chords and drums kick the song off before Choi and Embree go at it with their own separate riffs, as if each is trying to top the other. Chris Tsagakis also makes his presence felt with his stylistic drumming. The song is catchy and powerful and only gets better when the band launch into a phaser-driven bridge. Again, the two guitarists play off of each other with tricky riffs that create a dizzying effect. When they blast back into the chorus and the romping finale of power chords that close the album, it leaves you feeling out of breath and in awe at what the Bandits just displayed.
The Resignation was their first truly progressive album and only hinted at what the band was about to become. At times, the political preaching of Matt Embree can become tiring; but there are other times of lyrical brilliance that overcome the excessive lecturing. The band sometimes falters in trying to find a median between ska and progressive rock but, overall they created a great new sound on the album and started a promising, new chapter to their careers.