Rx Bandits’ ‘Progress’ blended Ska & Punk Rock wins best of year record

Following in a line of successful punk/ska bands from Southern California, Seal Beach natives the RxBandits are ready to impress a nation of rock fans waiting for something new in a stale genre. Released in July on Drive Thru Records, “Progress” is the quartet’s second album.
Formerly called the Pharmaceutical Bandits, Rx are not your typical punk/ska band ala Reel Big Fish or Less Than Jake. Made up of singer and guitarist Matt Embree, trombonist Rich Balling, bassist James Salomone and drummer Chris Tsagakis, the Bandits consider their music a mix of ska and pop-punk rock. Their songs sound like a mix of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Fishbone, and Rancid. Embree’s lyrics mix an angst-ridden Rage Against the Machine with a Dave Matthews pop caliber in some songs.
RxBandits are currently on tour with H20 and Drive Thru label mates New Found Glory as part of the Warped Inside Tour. “Progress” is their second release since 1999’s “Halfway Between Here and There” and quenched the thirst of the loyal fan base that had been waiting two years for new music. The band certainly did not disappoint. “Progress” blows away “Halfway Between” and ranks among one of the best rock albums released this year.
The disc immediately proves that RxBandits have evolved in the two years since their debut. The first track, after a brief intro of electronic noise, is the hard rock based “VCG3,” which features crunching guitars and screaming background vocals over Embree’s politically frustrated lyrics.
The band’s ska side shows at the beginning of the third track, “Consequential Apathy,” but by the end of the song it is transformed into the punk rock equivalent of a thumping bass test for a car stereo system. “Analog Boy” saw moderate success getting college radio airplay across the country by showing the band’s pop-punk side.
Many of Embree’s lyrics are enthusiastically political, such as “In All Rwanda’s Glory.” “Human rights went on vacation / Money took over a long time ago / Cry for this racial war in all Rwanda’s glory / There ain’t no glory in a war / You’re all one race / The human race / Just a different smile for a different face,” Embree sings.
Drummer Chris Tsagakis is one of the most talented drummers in rock today. Few modern rock drummers can rival his amazingly complex fills in “Status”. “Status” and “Anyone But You” are “Progress’s” two best songs. The two are sing-along and air guitar material from beginning to end.
Although “Progress” was released over the summer, it encompasses an eerie mood that could very well have been written in light of September 11th. Lyrics such as “I woke up this morning / Looked out my window / I saw a little black mushroom cloud forming / I guess we’re never gonna get along / It’s three years til I’m 24 / And I don’t want to die in a nuclear war” reflect what Americans might have felt several weeks ago. An incredibly moving and thought-provoking song, “Nugget” shows Embree’s amazing songwriting talent.
Last tracks “Progress,” “Nothing Sacred” and “Infection” further reflect the ska and pop-punk feel that the band shows best. Like most other songs on “Progress,” the concluding tracks start off with a reggae feel and then morph into hard rocking anthems.
The Bandits show that they learned a lot in their two years between their first two albums. The raw sound is a throwback of what true indie rock is supposed to be. It has amazing songwriting, talented musicians, and a unique sound that make up the positive factors. The band just might become the next great Southern California band.