RX Bandits

The Resignation

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The Resignation, the third LP from Cali-based combo Rx Bandits, finds the group eschewing the third wave ska influences of its early work in favor of an emphasis on volatile punk-pop and purified reggae riddims. The album is ambitious in more ways than music -- it arrives in a gorgeous full-color package, decked out with arresting cover art that wouldn't be out of place on a Tool or Marilyn Manson album. Additionally, The Resignation's audio quotient is fleshed out with a DVD featuring live footage and the usual behind-the-scenes rigor morale. Obviously, Rx Bandits have been "upstreamed" to MCA/Universal via Drive-Thru's deal with the behemoth -- the same deal that's fueled the boffo success of such fresh-faced punk-poppers as A New Found Glory and Starting Line. There's a chance that the profit-hungry parent label has had a hand in refining Rx Bandits' sound as well, since the hard-hitting fury of "Sell You Beautiful" and "Mastering the List" -- as well as the 311-esque grooves of "Pal-treaux" and "Falling Down the Mountain" -- are much more marketable than the relatively straightforward ska-core of 1999's Halfway Between Here & There. Whatever the cause of the Bandits' molting process, the result is formidable. Matthew Embree's throaty vocals and ambitious songwriting are even more mature here, and the rawk side of the band has never sounded thicker. At the same time, the group has discovered how to work in its talented horn section (tenor sax and trombone) in a way that's more rock with horns than ska with rock. It's not necessarily a revelation -- it's just that Rx does it so well, you start to think it is. The Resignation is not without its flaws. Rx Bandits are still young, after all, and tend to lose the end of the album's thematic string. While Embree's consciousness-raising streak is admirable, he gets a bit heavy-handed during the island groove of "Overcome (The Recapitulation)," where lines like "We've had enough of these politicians' wars/What we need right now is LOVE" make him sound like a high-school kid who discovered Bob Marley and CSN&Y's "Ohio" in the same weekend. Fortunately, his antiwar sloganeering works better in the acerbic "Newstand Rock (The Bottom Line Exposition)," and "Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers" should at least turn some kids out there on to the genius of the Police.

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