Do you miss Joe Strummer? Me, too. Happily, though, the spirit of Strummer lives on through the Bunny Gang, which features Nathen Maxwell of Flogging Molly. Their sophomore disc, Thrive, contains enough punk rock rage and reggae dubbiness to make listeners do a double take. If anything, Thrive carries on the legacy of Sandinista!, just without the triple-LP bloat. There’s even a song here titled “Illegal Market”, which, of course, may make you think of Black Market Clash. So, yeah, the Bunny Gang equals the Clash. Still, for all of its copying, Thrive is pretty strong. There are a great number of songs that are uplifting, if not a call to arms. “Beach Coma” is actually even kind of Sublime (as in the band, but, sure, read into that if you must any way that you would like to). The band moves into reggae-ish territory with “Waves” and the seven-and-a-half minute “Canoe Dub”.
However, as good as the reggae and dub excursions are, they also feel just like that … excursions. Coming on the heels of “Waves” is the triumphant “We Are the Ones”, and this causes a smidge of unevenness in the material. Elsewhere, “The Reckoning” and “Sirens Through the City” have that classic early Clash feel. And Maxwell even sounds a bit like Strummer, if you strain your ears just enough. Thus, it’s easy to write off the Bunny Gang as also-rans, just interested in music that you’ve heard elsewhere some 35 years before. For all that, though, this outfit does do a pretty good job at writing both anthemic songs and trippy songs. Even if this makes this album the poor man’s Sandinista!, the best thing you could say is that Thrive is a more manageable 11 tracks, as opposed to, you know, 36. And, arguably, Thrive is just as political as Sandinista!, with songs such as “Uprise Underground”. Say what you will about being a copycat, the Bunny Gang does a startling Clash impersonation. Some may scoff and say that they already own this record as Sandinista!, but the rest will just shrug their shoulders and celebrate that the voice of Joe Strummer lives on, albeit in altered form. If you know what you’re in for, you’ll probably have a grand ol’ time.