While the transition from ska revivalists to dark horse progressive rockers isn’t the strangest musical evolution to take place in the past decade, it’s certainly unusual.
For Rx Bandits, however, it’s just par for the course. The Californian four-piece has made a successful career setting fire to rule books ever since 2001’s aptly-named Progress, and that stubborn rebellion against convention continues, paradoxically, with the band’s first true attempt at accessibility.
Some longstanding fans may be quick to dismiss the band’s seventh album, but Gemini, Her Majesty feels far more like a confident evolution than a slick compromise.The band’s ska roots have been all but completely abolished from Gemini. Instead, the Rx Bandits rely heavily on pop-sensibilities, creating the most approachable incarnation of itself in the process.
Sure, the frenetic post-hardcore energy of the band’s previous releases may have totally evaporated, but the artistry of the Bandits’ craft remains wholly intact. Take “Ruby Cumulous,” the album’s second track, which flows effortlessly through astral atmospherics, jagged, punctuated riffing and river-of-glass vocal refrains. So many disparate elements shouldn’t coalesce so well, but the band succeeds and creates one of its most dynamic instrumental performances to date.
“Dynamic” is actually the perfect word to describe Gemini, Her Majesty. The record, much like the band itself, consistently refuses to adhere to its own precedent. “Ruby Cumulous” is immediately followed by the album’s most infectious track, “Wide Open,” whereas G2G finds the band diving headfirst into a full-on math rock jam session. Deeper into the record, “Meow! Meow! Space Tiger” flirts with reggae in its groove-laden verses.
In spite of this stylistic collage, the album anchors itself in the quality of its performances and rarely feels contrived in its transitions. Rather, each track serves as a peculiar, unique puzzle piece and part of a greater whole.
While pure ska may be behind the Bandits’ on their seventh full-length album, the future certainly isn’t. Surely no fan of the band expected the bombastic chorus of “Stargazer” to burst out of the speakers, which makes predicting that future futile but all the more exciting. Unabashedly adventurous and instrumentally sophisticated, Gemini, Her Majesty is a testament to the Rx Bandits’s longevity and gives little reason to worry about future releases.
Summary: The most approachable Rx Bandits yet maintains its integrity.