Seal Beach California's Rx Bandits are back with their second album! What? You don't know who these guys are? But they've played on the Warped tour, gigged with both Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish, and will be on tour with New Found Glory this fall! Re-read that last sentence if you want a little hint on what the Rx Bandits sound like. Goldfinger. Reel Big Fish. Bands still stuck in the late '90s "ska revival". Mmhmm. Prepare to retreive your porkpie hat once more.
If it were possible, the Rx Bandits would probably also be touring with Sublime, as most of their songs sound just like Brad Nowell and Co. They even have a knack for singing topical tunes, kind of like Sublime had when they recorded "Wrong Way" off their self-titled final album. An album that wasn't not only their "final", but rendered less of a solemn item due to Nowell's death slightly before the album was issued when two more albums were released afterward. Death is still a Star, no?
At first, I really got into Progress simply because of the Sublime factor. After all, I, too, had bought that band's last album and enjoyed it just as much as anyone else. So it was a bit of a novelty I suppose when I put the Rx Bandits on and heard the Ghost of Brad coming through nearly every song here. Specifically on the two best songs on the album, "Analog Boy" and "Get". Yes, this is the kind of music that both ESPN and Sony would love to get their hands on for inclusion in either your next favorite X Games sound bites or skateboard/BMX video game. It's all here, the double time bass and beats, the swaggering horn section, the ska-like guitars that play those same chords over and over. You'll definitely want to get up and dance.
And the political bent that the band invokes on songs such as "In All Rwanda's Glory" and "Babylon" seem to go down just a little surrealistically in light of all the recent fears of terrorism, war, and whatnot. Hits a little to close to the bone. Maybe that's good, and maybe it isn't, but everything in moderation as they say. Still, the band does rock away no matter what the "message" (and there are plenty of them packed into the 15 songs here), allowing the listener to both shake his or her respective asses and take a few sociological notes along the way.
But I've said it before, and I'll certainly say it again (here it comes, in fact): I just wish that bands such as the Rx Bandits had a little something more to share. Oh yeah, Progress sounds really damn good the first couple of times, maybe even the third. But what good is sounding like Sublime and a bunch of other bands that sound like Sublime? I suppose it still sells records (and no matter what the purists may say, it's always a nice thing to sell a few copies of your record when you have one out) and offers a semblance of an "alternative" to nothing much else these days. It would have just been nicer had the Bandits' album title lived up to its name. At least more so than all the hype would have you believe that is scrawled on the back of their promo disc ("it's their composite effect of punk, ska, reggae, and hardcore that makes this a stunning leap forward"). Punk, ska, reggae, and hardcore? Stunning or just done to death? Death is a Star, indeed.