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Feedback: Rx Bandits
Jun 24th, 2008 by Dan

You may recall a post back in the day where I lauded the amazing Live from Bonnaroo 2007 album by Rx Bandits. It only recently occurred to me in my car this weekend while listening to the aforementioned album just why it is so good and why the Bandits are so good in general.

You see, back when I was reading the Wikipedia page for the Bandits albums The Resignation and …And the Battle Begun I noticed an interesting little tidbit:

“Guitars, bass, drums, and some keyboards on this album were all recorded live. Vocals, horns, percussion and additional keyboard parts were then overdubbed. They only allowed themselves a limited number of takes for each parts. Once a take was recorded, it was left as it was, with no post-thought interference.”

So, more or less, the reason why the Bandits sound so good on their live CD is that the songs sound more or less the exact same way they perform them live. Aside from sharper vocals, I’m not really missing out on a bunch of little details like I am in other live CDs from artists who like to really fill out the sound of their CDs. There is also a sense of energy and chaos in the Bandits CDs that I think stems from the limitations they arbitrarily place on themselves to get their takes done well within the boundaries.

Incidentally, I think this is why so many other live CDs disappointed me in the past. Many artists cannot help but be attracted by the allure of post-processing and its ability to modify their songs beyond what is actually humanly possible by the band. What results is a beautiful track (if the artist is good) that I love listening to, but am ultimately disappointed by when played live. I think that more bands should try to tone down and simplify their sounds to go for this more genuine, authentic sound. I think it can only help.

One last note, I’ve discovered that the Rx Bandits will be showing up in Baltimore on tour on 29 July. Count me there, I can’t wait.

Feedback: Live Shows: FOB and Rx Bandits
Apr 24th, 2008 by Dan

So I was wandering through Best Buy last week, as I am want to do, and I noticed that Fall Out Boy released a new album: Live in Phoenix. Back in the day I used to hate live albums. The sound quality was always a bit diminished and the songs were slightly different, musically, with different tempos, lyrics, and sometimes flourishes. They lacked the studio polish and effects and just sounded raw. Then I started going to concerts. My first real one was Five Iron Frenzy’s Winners Never Quit tour, which was just amazing. I remember hearing “The Medley of Power Ballads and Bad Taste” live and being just totally blown away. If this type of thing could happen at a concert, then it’s possible that other live CDs could have more than just songs that were on studio albums. Live album love was born for me and, to this day, I treasure my live albums by Ben Folds, FIF, and other odd live recordings here or there.

Even so, I’m still wary of these live albums. I’ve been burned by mediocre live albums in the past (I had to hate them for a reason, right?), so when I saw the FOB CD, I mosied on over to Borders to listen to previews of the album tracks. The first bunch failed to impress, I didn’t recognize one track, so I skipped it (more on this mistake later), but the tail end of the album seemed to be really neat, so I headed back over to Best Buy and bought the much more reasonably priced Live at Phoenix.

Once I copied the disk to my Linux computer and booted up the CD I was pleasantly…disappointed. The album just doesn’t sound good at all. FOB is not a band that translates well to the live medium. There are some pretty sweet parts in the tail end of the album, after “Beat It,” but the rest is pretty ho-hum. Worse…it sounds awful through my computer’s speakers. The lead’s voice just doesn’t sound good. The CD is actually much better through headphones, strangely enough.

Supposedly the CD is a sound recording of a live concert, with the DVD included and all, but this is where things get strange. Track 9, “Beat It,” is a studio recording. The concert CD has decent pacing, you’re into it, and then you’re thrown into a bonus track. Wikipedia’s got “Beat It” as a track too, so maybe it was a music video and not live? In any case, “Beat It,” a cover of the Michael Jackson hit, is amazing! FOB is just perfect for this cover. The tail end of this album, from about “Beat It” onwards, is worth the purchase, but that means that more than half of the 15 track album is just mediocre.

My recommendation: Unless you’re a diehard FOB fan, pass it up. Definitely try to get “Beat It” on its own from either iTunes or Amazon or something, it’s a great cover.

I’ve had …And the Battle Begun by Rx Bandits for quite some time, but had yet to really give it some serious listens. Once I had, I found a really deep and awesome album that just floors me whenever I hear its standout tracks. This led me to check out their wikipedia page and realize they had a live album out. Now, my friend Boz has often cited the opinions of his friends that the Bandits are just too long-winded with instrumentals in their concert. I can totally get where they’re coming from, since they are a former ska-band-turned-progressive-rock, so ska fans might not know what to think of music that clearly features an amazing horn section, but is not like ska or reggae or anything they’ve ever heard, really. I lamented that the album, Live at Bonnaroo (an amazing venue, I may go this year), was only available at iTunes (I HATE DRM!), but I relented and purchased the album anyway. Let me just say that RxB is amazing live. I’m going to have to seriously pay attention to when they’re in town and attend a show.

There are so many good tracks on this album, there’s no point in going through and highlighting the ones that are great, cause I’d just end up writing all 11 track names in a sequential list. My recommendation, listen to the Bandit’s other CDs, namely The Resignation and …And the Battle Begun, and buy this album from iTunes if you like that other music.

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