River City Rebels
Racism, Religion, and War
Just when I think that I've finally outgrown punk, a band comes along a reaffirms my faith in the genre. River City Rebels deliver a sound that is instantly catchy yet hard to describe. There's some hardcore, some Oi!-type stuff, some gutter punk, and even some horns (actually, a lot of horns), but there's no ska to be found here. Instead, Racism, Religion, and War is just a full record of driving, political protest punk. Actually, not a full record of "driving" exactly -- the last track ("Stars And Stripes") is an acoustic number -- but nevertheless, it still kicks ass in a way that only angry feet sheathed in Doc Martens can. Fans of The Clash, The Strike, hell, even Ignite, listen up: if you like your punk loud and angry, yet melodic (and with a message), then River City Rebels are your new favorite band. (MHo)
(Victory Records -- 364 N. Justine St., Suite 504, Chicago, IL. 60607; http://www.victoryrecords.com/; River City Rebels -- http://www.rivercityrebels.com/)
Rx Bandits is a band from the Orange County ska-punk scene that spawned bands like No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, and Sublime, all of which was very evident when I popped Progress, the band's 2002 release, into my stereo. Other critics have claimed that Progress is some sort of groundbreaking album -- some labeled it a masterpiece, saying it brilliantly fused ska with rock and reggae with metal. To me, though, it sounds more like Rx Bandits just took Sublime, added a little Lost Prophets and a bit of a '90s edge, and they did so in the most tiresome way.
The first few songs grabbed my attention like a teenage boy with a dirty magazine. With a Taking Back Sunday sort of feel to them, they seemed to indicate that Rx Bandits was a band I could really enjoy, and I was impressed with the great backing vocals pumping out heart-wrenching screams...but then the screams turned out to be erratic and misplaced. In the middle of a reggae track, you'd be shot full of loud, piercing screams, which was surprising in the most unpleasant way. After those first few songs, the rest of the CD was just repetitive reggae and boring rock anthems.
I'm not saying this CD is completely intolerable, mind you; it's just not revolutionary. Something can't be groundbreaking if it's been successfully done before, and the truth of the matter is that it has been done before...by Sublime (minus the screaming, of course). In fact, if I didn't know any better, on songs like "Nugget," I might hear the way Matt Embree sings and be fooled into thinking it was Bradley Nowell on some unreleased track. Embree took Nowell's signature vocal styling and copied it to a T. There's nothing innovative about that. (NK)
(Drive-Thru Records -- http://www.drivethrurecords.com/; Rx Bandits -- http://www.rxbandits.com/)