Release Date: Jul 22, 2014
Record label: Mashdown Babylon
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Punk-Pop, Neo-Prog, Prog-Rock, Ska-Punk, Third Wave Ska Revival
Review Summary: Just give it time. You could be forgiven for thinking that the spacy vocal intro track to Gemini, Her Majesty and the off-the wall tremolo picked opening of "Ruby Cumulous" herald yet another trippy "progressive ska" (if there is such a thing) outing from the experimental reaches of the Rx Bandits. It bears a striking resemblance to .
If Gemini, Her Majesty sounds more like the title of some overlooked '70s prog rock album than the work of a West Coast ska band, it seems that's just what RX Bandits had in mind for their seventh studio project. With their horn section just a memory and the tunes only occasionally suggesting a stark and sinewy variation on reggae (and with no outward ska moves), Gemini, Her Majesty finds RX Bandits cutting ties with many of the rudiments of their third wave ska beginnings, and between the tricky time signatures, the topsy-turvy guitar overdubs, the banks of keyboard textures, and Matt Embree's portentous vocals and verbose lyrics, Gemini, Her Majesty suggests this band has wandered into the verdant fields of progressive rock, and what's more, they like it there. The echo-laden coda of "Will You Be Tomorrow," as the guitars spin and warble through space, even veers into the psychedelic, though most of these tracks are too muscular and firmly controlled to seem properly lysergic.
Let’s see if we can get through this review without using the word ska (that’s one) too frequently. After all, Rx Bandits haven’t been a true ska band (that’s two) in 13 years, more than twice as long as they were one. With 2001’s Progress, they started to experiment with spacier influences and time signatures, a trend that increased with The Resignation and …And the Battle Begun, where they were more like a prog band with horns.
Rx Bandits spent several albums twisting and contorting the notions of modern ska-punk until it was no longer a recognizable part of their sound. Even before 2009's horn-depleted false farewell, Mandala, the band had earned the namesake "the Mars Vol-ska," a pun either complimentary of their prog-rock liberties or derisive of their overindulgence, depending on who you'd ask. Mandala lied somewhere in the middle, with undeniably creative nuances, Latin music asides and jarring changes in course, but also frustratingly deficient of the powerful, punk-laden dynamism and enduring hooks of their earlier material.