Album Review
Rx Bandits - Mandala Album Cover

Rx Bandits - Mandala

Reviewed by
Rx Bandits - Mandala
Record Label: Sargent House
Release Date: July 21, 2009
It might be easy to identify Rx Bandits as a chameleon, seeing how much change they have gone through both in terms of their music and band personnel. However, it might be more accurate to suggest that Rx Bandits are simply an entirely different breed altogether. Fine-tuning their sound more than David Bowie changed his hair style, Rx Bandits have transformed themselves into more than just an ordinary band -- they are "ear art," which is to imply that what your eyes cannot visually locate, your ears do... and they send all that delicious candy to every other sense in your body. Go ahead. Don't be afraid. Taste it, baby. Goes down oh-so smoo-hoo-ooth.

After nearly 15 years and seven albums, you can expect a massive dose of growth from this Southern California group that spent much of the earlier half of the millennium overshadowed by their Drive-Thru peers. With each release, the Bandits have developed a fuller, more progressive sound; a sound that was at first influenced by ska & metal, and later became groove-oriented, before finally settling on the entire frame of every instrument that went into creating an entire song. It isn't just about hooks and snap with the Bandits -- they want to hit you from all sides with everything they've got. Literally. RXB are creating music that is meant to be listened to.

After a four-year wait that witnessed more band members leave and even more artistically-defined side projects release material, Matthew Embree & company have made their first completely Reines-free album, the aptly-named Mandala, which not only sounds profound and more enigmatic -- but more importantly, it continues to push the band's creative boundaries to their limits, just to see how much they can test them before they break. Working with producer Chris Fudurich, whom the band worked with on Progress and The Resignation, the album was recorded live and sounds lush & completely captivating. Every member contributes their best work with a bit of swagger and lot of feeling. Motivational speaking? Who needs it when you can just put on the jaunty rhythms of Rx Bandits and feel better in less than an hour!

Mandala is an odd mix of familiarity with something completely different; the horn section has all but been abandoned in favor of a transcendent euphoria that opening cut "My Lonesome Only Friend" captures perfectly. Like a calm before the storm, the song brews up something fierce in four minutes before the waves settle, preparing for another hit. Despite the hornless sound ("Bury it Down Low," however, is classic RXB), the reggae/ska rhythms are all still present, driving every track like a locomotive ("Hearts That Hanker For Mistake") with a hint of Hammond organ floating in the background. The sonic calamity is a fascinating blend of Indian melody ("Hope is a Butterfly...") and calypso percussion (Chris Tsagakis sounds better every record), and as the album cover suggests, there is a sense of peaceful tyranny to the entire record. "Breakfast Cat" is a hurricane of bass & non-stop pulsating drumbeats that wrap around the song like a python. Not surprisingly, it sounds like the second-cousin to "Dinna-Dawg" off 2003's The Resignation.

As it all fuses together, Mandala is the Bandits' most globally-scoped record, enhanced by the unified lyrics that speak of self-confession and soul bearing over a very Mediterranean-based rhythm section that plays like a well-orchestrated jam band (check out the Latin-tinged "Mientras la Veo Sonar," and that organ/drum finale). The music is doing the talking here (and, at times, Embree's lyrics reflect that), and every piece is working together, in unison. Like the river Nile, it flows with beauty and grace, working toward a larger goal than merely what your eye-line can see. Mandala isn't meant to be skipped over; this is an album that intentionally strings itself together, twisting and turning, leading the listener on a trip that is both turbulent & composed. Hell, there is so much going on with Mandala, recommending it in your own words seems rather trivial. This is the kind of album that begs for expensive headphones in order to truly listen to all it's lovely value.

It might be difficult for longtime fans to understand what the band is going for, because in a day & age of studio-based bands, hearing something so focused & organic (not to mention talented) is a chore to get through. Mandala goes down easier with every 53 minutes it bum-rushes through, and while longtime admirers might have to get past the fact that the Bandits no longer stick to some basic formalities concerning structure, the patience is well-worth the payoff. "May this harmony create a sanctuary for escape," Embree sings. Mandala seems like a good place to hide.

Recommended if You LikeGrowth and progression. And really, is there any band out there that comes close to Rx Bandits? Think of music you actually have to sit down and listen to -- it's like that, but better.
Choice Cuts"Mientras la Veo Sonar," "Breakfast Cat" and "Hope is a Butterfly..."

Track Listing1. My Lonesome Only Friend
2. It's Only Another Parsec...
3. Hope is a Butterfly, No Nets Its Captor... (Virus of Silence)
4. Hearts That Hanker For Mistake
5. Mientras la Veo Sonar
6. March of the Caterpillar
7. White Lies
8. Bury it Down Low
9. Breakfast Cat
10. Bled to Be Free (The Operation)
11. Bring Our Children Home or Everything is Nothing
Band MembersMatthew Embree: guitar/lead vocals
Steve Choi: guitar/synths/keys/vocals
Joe Troy: bass/vocals
Chris Tsagakis: drums/percussion

Online VitalsOfficial Site | Official Myspace
PurchaseAmazon MP3
This review is a user submitted review from smoke4thecaper. You can see all of smoke4thecaper's submitted reviews here.
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 90
04:41 AM on 07/30/09
Leave my fucking grammar alone.
User Info.
berskyjr's Avatar
Great review, such an amazing album! and the bandits progression since their first 2 to discs really is something I've never seen lol Mientras la Veo Sonar = great song
04:46 AM on 07/30/09
my shit is custom..
User Info.
xXTheKeeshXx's Avatar
04:47 AM on 07/30/09
User Info.
CIMA's Avatar
Great review. This album for me was really hard to get into, but after a few listens now I'm really starting to dig it.
04:52 AM on 07/30/09
Registered User
User Info.
theyellowdart's Avatar
YESSSS!!! I love when the Bandits get the recognition they definitely desevere. Such an incredible band and a mind-blowing album, freaaaal.

"Literally. RXB are creating music that is meant to be listened to." So good ahaha. Great review Chris.
05:04 AM on 07/30/09
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
User Info.
Gregory Robson's Avatar
Seeing them tonight in the NYC. Whoo!
05:14 AM on 07/30/09
User Info.
Petzl's Avatar
Awesome review, it definitely does this incredible album justice. I can't wait to see them with Dredg and ATAL this Saturday.
05:29 AM on 07/30/09
User Info.
thatwasamoment's Avatar
Progressive reggae, who would've thunk it? Anyway, it's so damn good.
05:34 AM on 07/30/09
User Info.
ThisIsNotDan's Avatar
great review Chris. oh and so is this fucking album. damn
05:48 AM on 07/30/09
User Info.
No Avatar Selected
Woah, that's a high rating. Good review, yet to check out the album
06:13 AM on 07/30/09
Daigle lol
don't tell me what I can't do!
User Info.
Daigle lol's Avatar
I stopped listening to thsee guys for awhile, but after reading this review, I think I might have to check them out again. They were always pretty damn good.
06:19 AM on 07/30/09
Hang your secrets
User Info.
bobcatbob18's Avatar
Awesome review for a phenomenal album. I cannot stop telling my friends how amazing Mandala is.
06:35 AM on 07/30/09
Registered User
User Info.
nelks42's Avatar
great review for a great album. it's scripted chaos, i can't get enough.
06:38 AM on 07/30/09
Un'Aria Ancora
The best happiness money can buy.
User Info.
Un'Aria Ancora's Avatar
AOTY so far.
Or Grizzly Bear...
But since this is the RXB review, we'll go with that.
06:44 AM on 07/30/09
soft dick rock
User Info.
sargentlgfuad's Avatar
i loved their last album, which was had some fun choruses that were pretty easy to get into.
this album however is so ridiculously hard to get into, as soon as i feel it picking up and going somewhere they go somewhere else, and it gets really confusing and hard to feel.
i've listened to it about three times so far. and a few songs i like, but this is going to take some time to get into for real.

Search News
Release Dates
Best New Music
Submit News
Mobile Version
AP.net Logos
Encore Podcast
Free Music
Sports Forum
Technology Forum
Contact Us
Copyright Policy
Terms of Service
Privacy Policy
Twitter | Facebook | RSS
Encore Podcast on iTunes
Encore on Overcast
AP.net on Tumblr
Chorus.fm | @jason_tate