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July: “Did You Get What You Wanted?” [Fukubukuro 2011]
Jan 10th, 2012 by Dan

Farewell, Rx Bandits.

We were introduced with The Resignation 2003 as a Christmas gift from my ex-girlfriend. I loved “Mastering the List” and I liked the album then, but I didn’t really LOVE RxB.

Love started in 2006 with …And The Battle Begun. So many great songs on that disc, but tops must always go to “Only for the Night”, which became (and remains) my favorite track.

In 2009 I explored your past with Halfway Between Here and There and Progress, enjoying the strides you’d made and how far you’d come. The seeds were always there and it all gelled with Mandala. Your crowning achievement of all that you wanted to do and all that you wanted to say and, despite my love for your horns, it was the end of that era. You’d grown up and so had I.

Eric was mentioning to me that he finds punk/ska to be young man’s music and I can understand that. Surface level anti-commercial and anti-establishment lyrics give way to more complicated thoughts about war, women, regret, loss. RxB’s songs had that arc. I mean, they may still hate the man, but it’s not in the same way that a punk kid just hates the man for being “fake”. RxB wants social change, but not anarchy, you know? It’s a fine line to toe.

Quick digression, both FIF and RxB were big on women’s rights and image issues and it makes me think that the ska scene tries to be friendlier to women (there were certainly a few women-led ones in the past), but I have no idea if that’s actually true. Any scene that’s big on moshing and all that can’t really be all that girl-friendly, can it? I may just have a biased view…

Anyway, RxB ran its farewell tour through DC in July and I knew I couldn’t miss it. I tried (in vain) to get someone to come with me, but despite being unable to muster any other concert goers other than myself, I went down to the 9:30 Club for the big show.

The only other Farewell Tour I’d been on was the fantastic Five Iron Frenzy Winners Never Quit tour (ED NOTE: FIF is actually a thing again! They got back together in Nov and they’ll be releasing an album in 2013!). That was such an emotional and awesome show. I almost cried at that show and I single-handedly credit it to proving to me that concerts can be mega-awesome. I knew I had to go to RxB’s.

It was a slightly different environment, for sure. I wasn’t 17 anymore and moshing wasn’t generally allowed at FIF concerts, but I’ve been to enough concerts that it wasn’t too jarring. Some of the jostling kept me from really focusing on the show, but it was still one of their most incredible gigs. I wish they’d brought back the horns for the last tour, but everyone was still on their A-game. Matt Embree and Steve Choi, in particular, were outstanding and showed why their direction defined the band post-Progress.

The highlight of the night was their show-ending “Only for the Night”. It was a meandering stunner. They start the song, flow into jams and other songs for another seven to ten minutes, and, when you’ve forgotten that this started with “Only for the Night”, they come bursting back into the song for its bombastic ending. It just felt so right and the entire venue was just blown away.

At the end of the night it was another goodbye. FIF was a farewell to high school. I went out of town to see them and it was a way to end the thread of music that had carried me through middle school and high school. RxB was the music I jammed to in undergrad and in that post-university limbo. It’s weird saying goodbye to a thing I love and a period of my life that I feel like I’ve moved past.

Thanks for the music, RxB. You guys were the best.

Rx Bandits at Ace of Spades - Sacramento

Peace, Matt Embree (Photo Courtesy Eric Lovato)

2011 in Music [F]
Jan 3rd, 2012 by Dan

last.fm t-shirt

Thanks to last.fm, I can tell you what my personal favorite music of 2011 has been!

Top 10 Artists of 2011

1. The Beatles (1,156)

I’d say the number of tracks in my collection that are by The Beatles or by the Rx Bandits far outweighs the number of other tracks. It’s not a coincidence, since I love both bands, but I don’t think you’ll see these positions change much in the future.

2. RX Bandits (571)

The Bandits split up this year. It’s tragic, but that concert was amazing and I’ll always love their music.

3. Jonathan Coulton (343)

Coulton’s new release sparked way more interest in his work than I’d had last year. Adding in the band allowed his music to grow in a great way.

4. Arctic Monkeys (328)

The Monkeys are a pretty solid band and I got to see them live for the first time in 2011. Their new tracks are pretty solid, especially “Black Treacle”

5. Sambo Master (277)

I’ve written thousands of words about why I love this J-Rock band. They’ve got so much energy and emotion in their lyrics (that I can’t even understand!) and their place on this list is well-earned.

6. Kanye West (185)

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was an incredible album. It got lots of playtime throughout the year, but the final push that put it above OK Go happened as a result of the Giant Bombcast and their obsession with “Power”. I literally listened gave Kanye the listens he needed to get #6 in the last two days of the year.

7. OK Go (184)

OK Go is just a solid rock band. They’ve got great lyrics, great hooks, and they’re always great fun to listen to.

8. Rita Indiana & Los Misterios (172)

I ran into this fantastic merengue band thanks to Alt Latino. Rita makes merengue even more frantic and fun than you remember it being and I love her for it.

9. Sondre Lerche (163)

Everyone’s favorite Norwegian crooner. I like this guy because he’s got a clean

10. Janelle Monáe (161)

Janelle gets funkier than any human has any right to. Her latest, The ArchAndroid, was so well put together that I’m on the edge of my seat to see what she does next. A definite can’t miss.

11. Vampire Weekend (154)

I think these listens were front-ended on 2011. Not that I dislike VW now, but I can’t remember listening to their stuff all that much in recent months. I like busting out Contra in the cold winter to warm me up, but it’s been a mild one so far.

12. The Civil Wars (133)

Joy Williams and John Paul White have one of the most incredible duos I’ve ever been lucky enough to listen to. Their voices just go so well together and have this longing quality that is surprising considering they’re both happily married…to other people.

13. Alex Cuba (132)

This Cuban-Canadian crooner makes pretty chill, easy listening Spanish music that I can’t get enough of.

14. Keiichi Suzuki, Hirokazu Tanaka, Hiroshi Kanazu, Toshiyuki Ueno (127)

This would be the staff behind the music of Mother games. I picked up the soundtracks to the second and third game, but they’re so massive that this team rose quickly.

15. Wild Flag (123)

One of my favorite new bands of the past year, I still remember queuing for two hours (to no avail) on Record Store Day for a chance at their single. Their album turned out fantastically (easily one of the best of 2011) and seeing them live was awesome.

Top Tracks of 2011

1. Rita Indiana & Los Misterios – “El juidero” (27)

My go-to track for merengue that makes my legs want to move. “El juidero” was just fantastic and I remember putting it on all the time just to get my heartbeat up.

2. RX Bandits – “…And The Battle Begun” (25)

I have so many versions of the tracks on …And the Battle Begun that I listen to with such regularity that this song not appearing on this list would be weird.

3. RX Bandits – “Only For The Night” (24)

My favorite song makes the list? Shocker!

4. April Smith and The Great Picture Show – “Colors”, The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger – “Jardin du Luxembourg”, & The Book of Mormon Cast – “All-American Prophet” (22)

April Smith is awesome, we already know that, but I also fell in love with Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s little duo thanks to NPR. We also can’t forget how awesome The Book of Mormon‘s soundtrack is. Great stuff.

7. Wild Flag – “Glass Tambourine” & Jonathan Coulton – “Nemeses (Featuring John Roderick)” (21)

The first single of both band’s discs from this year got lots of listens from me in anticipation of the full tracks.

9. RX Bandits – “Decrescendo”, The Beatles – “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”, Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich+Fussible – “I Count the Ways”, & Wild Flag – “Future Crimes” (19)

“Decrescendo” closes off a bunch of Rx Bandits recordings I own. “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” is my favorite part of the Abbey Road medley. “I Count the Ways” is my second favorite Nortec song on that album. “Future Crimes” is the other single from Wild Flag released before their debut album.

13. The Beatles – “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, Barenaked Ladies – “Enid”, & OK Go – “WTF?” (17)

I listen to “Enid” a lot. Mostly when I’m mad at a girl, but sometimes just to get the heartbeat up. “WTF?” is not my favorite songs on OK Go’s new album, but it was their first single and it was free. “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” is one of The Beatles’ late, weirder songs, but man do I love it. So creepy and weird and awesome.

What I’ve Been Doing [F/FB/IB/BT/GO]
Jul 11th, 2011 by Dan

2010 Pine Leaf Boys scene from Treme, Breaux Bridge April 30 (23 of 34)

A performance from Tremé

Tomorrow night’s the All-Star Game, but my coverage might be a little different than usual. I plan on watching it with friends, so there may not be a liveblog, but I will cover it in the morning. In the meanwhile, here’s what I’ve been up to.

Music:

Rx Bandits – Saw the Bandits down at the 9:30 Club on Saturday for their farewell tour. I don’t think anything will match the unparalleled emotion I felt at Five Iron Frenzy’s “Winners Never Quit” tour back in 2003, but it was a special show. They’re not writing off being a studio band, but that may have been the last time I’ll ever see the Bandits and they did not disappoint. Great show. The tour t-shirt puts me up to 5 RxB t-shirts. I think I’ve reached excessive there.

Movies:

Carancho - Ricardo Darín’s strong showing in El secreto de sus ojos attracted me to this movie. In it, Darín plays a carancho (translates to vulture), or an ambulance chaser, who scams victims out of their settlements. The story is a little uneven, but it’s clear to me that Darín is ridiculously talented and I love seeing him in anything. Gotta track down more of his films.

TV:

Tremé – Finally got around to watching the season 2 finale. Good stuff. It’s neat to see the differences between Tremé and The Wire. David Simon is clearly not compelled to make this show more watchable by limiting the live music or giving it a more structured plot, but that’s ok sometimes. It’s nice to see the different storylines just play out because, hey, that’s life. Good to also see the Vietnamese shrimp boats as a preparation for an eventual Gulf Oil Spill storyline.

Dead Like Me – As a fan of Pushing Daisies, I was not surprised to learn that this was a Bryan Fuller show. The same little quirks were apparent in the early episodes and although he left the show rather early in its run, his DNA runs through it. I gotta wonder about Fuller’s preoccupation with death and women with masculine nicknames…Anyway, it’s a pretty solid show that my girlfriend is watching and I hop in for an episode or two wherever she is. The premise, that the main characters are grim reapers who collect souls that are about to die, is pretty neat and I dig the characters. I also like that it was a Showtime show, so the writers are free to let the characters talk like real people.

Mad Men – Last weekend I just blew through S3 and S4. This is a fantastic show. I do love it when a show finds itself continually evolving so it’s neat to see how far the characters have come since S1. It was a little troubling in the 4th season to see Don struggling, but I’m excited to see what S5 brings in 2012. This is seriously one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages. Very good.

Books:

Chew – New issue (#19) came out last week. Toni appears in this one and she’s rapidly grown on me as one of my favorite characters. The latest issue sets up a lot of neat plot points that I’m excited to see born out and also reveals some interesting secrets about the Chu family. Definitely the best so far in the new arc.

S.H.I.E.L.D. – My love affair with Jonathan Hickman’s work has not abated yet. His examination of the secret history of an organization that a lot of Marvel fans kind of take for granted is very interesting. Could have interesting implications for the greater Marvel universe, but it also ties in very nicely with Hickman’s work in FF. Gotta wonder if Hickman has some serious father issues, because it’s yet another book of his thematically dealing with fathers and sons, but this time with a fate vs. free will wrinkle.

Fantastic Four/FF – More Hickman, more awesomeness. I finally got around to reading Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and I was seriously impressed. I mean, we’re talking a breadth of narrative that’s still bearing fruit in his current issues of FF. FF is one of my most anticipated books every month. I can’t wait to see what The War of the Four Cities will bring and whether or not the issues with the Council of Reeds (first introduced at the start of Hickman’s run back in 2009) will be resolved in this arc.

Ultimate Fantastic Four – Still cool, but man does it pale in comparison to the work being done on FF. Almost done with it, so I’ll continue for now.

Video Games:

Torchlight – Picked this guy up for $2 or so in the Steam summer sale. and it was well worth the purchasing price. Definitely scratching my Diablo itch with some seriously addictive game mechanics. Playing as the pet class and loving all the summons, but on Very Hard the final dungeons are proving challenging. I’m afraid to try it hardcore next, but the challenge is calling me (for those who don’t know, hardcore mode means that death is permanent for a character. THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE!)

Left 4 Dead – David finally built himself a new computer allowing him to play all the sweet games of the past that we couldn’t play before. We played No Mercy last night and it was a real blast from the past. I can’t wait for him to see the ways the game has evolved in L4D2! I’m sure he’ll find it just as awesome as I do.

inFamous – Beat it on very hard on the good track. Considering an evil run for trophies, but, truth be told, this game is middling, at best, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to motivate myself to play it again with more interesting options on hand.

StarCraft 2 – Played a couple of quick rounds with Dave and one of his friends. Still solid, but I’m not always in the mood.

My 2010 in Music [Feedback]
Dec 31st, 2010 by Dan

last.fm t-shirt

Thanks to last.fm, I can tell you what my personal favorite music of 2010 has been!

Top 10 Artists of 2010

1. The Beatles (989 listens)

The re-release of the entire catalog reinvigorated my love for The Beatles as I more thoroughly explored their catalog and loved songs I’d never realized were by the Fab Four. Heaping praise on The Beatles is almost ridiculous, so I’ll leave it at that.

2. April Smith and The Great Picture Show (385)

This one doesn’t make as much sense to me. I think there might be some miscounting by one of my tagging services, but, regardless, I’ve loved April Smith since the first time I heard her singing “Terrible Things” on All Songs Considered. She was absolutely my breakout sensation of this year. There will be more on her in the New Year…

3. Rx Bandits (370)

“We get it, Dan. You love the Bandits, even though almost no one on earth has heard of them…”

4. Arctic Monkeys (295)

Kees van Dijkhuizen’s fantastic Youtube video Cinema 2009 featured “Crying Lightning” and I was hooked. Then I gave Favourite Worst Nightmare and I knew that these kids from Sheffield really knew what they were doing. We’ll see if 2011 will bring a new album.

5. Sambomaster (268)

“Shut up about Sambomaster already, Dan.”

6. The Zutons (179)

A fine band whose plays came mostly because I made “Put A Little Aside” the anthem for visiting a girl I was quite taken with. It’s a song about a guy having an affair, so I’m proving that we really only hear what we want to out of our favorite songs.

7. Jonathan Coulton (177)

Everyone’s favorite nerdy singer of songs about robots, monkeys, zombies, and evil geniuses continues to get tons of plays from me. Great stuff.

8 Glee Cast (165)

No comment.

9. Lucky Boys Confusion (163)

An old staple that will never get old. Too bad they broke up.

10. Girl Talk (147)

Talk about making a fast impression. With only two months of the year to make an impact, Girl Talk still finds itself in my top ten. Props.

Top Tracks of 2010

1. Felicia Day – “Penny’s Song” (88 listens)

Whoa, really? Wow. Didn’t realize I loved this song that much. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is one of my favorite musicals, but “Penny’s Song” isn’t really my favorite track from the movie. Oh well, I’m still happy to see this top the list.

2. Glee Cast (featuring Kristin Chenowith) – “Fire” (79)

I love this song. I’m just barely not embarrassed to admit it.

3. Sambomaster – “Ohベイビー” (70)

More Sambomaster love.

4. Stars – “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” (68)

Another song I wouldn’t have heard if I never listened to All Songs Considered. Their episode on break-up songs featured this track by Stars and it blew me away. Always makes me think of Ashley. Nearly makes me cry plenty of times. This song is brutal and awesome at the same time.

5. Glee Cast (featuring Kristin Chenowith) – “One Less Bell to Answer/A House Is Not a Home” (65)

Kristin Chenowith’s voice is amazing.

6. Rx Bandits – “Mientras La Veo Soñar” (60)

A great song on a great 2009 album.

7. Lucky Boys Confusion – “Not About Debra” and April Smith and the Great Picture Show “Wow and Flutter” (58)

Probably my favorite song by LBC and one of April Smith’s best. Smith currently uses “Wow and Flutter” as the last song in her set and the band all plays fantastic solos. Love both of these songs.

9. The Zutons – “Oh Stacey (Look What You’ve Done!)” (55)

It’s weird to have this so high when I love at least four or five Zutons songs more than this one. Guess that’s how it goes when you do a lot of random shuffling.

10. April Smith and The Great Picture Show – “Drop Dead Gorgeous” (54)

Brilliant song, because, really, “If you’re just drop dead gorgeous, you should just drop dead”

Zelda Reorchestrated [Game Overview]
Jan 22nd, 2010 by Dan

Right around Christmas of 2009, Zelda Reorchestrated completed a pretty ambitious musical project: a reorchestration of the Ocarina of Time soundtrack. The free, 82-track download is available to download here and I’ve given the songs a listen or two and they’re fantastic.

As someone who actually owns the original Ocarina of Time soundtrack, I was impressed by the high quality work that this fan group was able to bring to bring to the project. Not only are the tracks faithful to the original music, they’re actually a vast improvement from the original MIDI-synthesized tracks that we’ve all become accustomed to.

A month later I’m impressed that the work hasn’t seen some sort of cease-and-desist or been sued, but I wouldn’t wait around too long to download the collection if this kind of thing interests you. It’s really only a matter of time before Nintendo cracks down on this.

Rock Band News

This week the Rock Band Network, the service enabling non-Harmonix-employed musicians to chart their tracks for Rock Band, entered open beta for anyone interested in working with the software. Recent interviews give reason to believe that the service is within a few months of launching, which represents a way awesome breakthrough on the platform, least of which is because I’ve seen the Rx Bandits listed as a band who will be utilizing the service.

I’m just really excited to see the game move forward as a new way to experience music and not see them cash in as much as Activision has with its Guitar Hero franchise. That’s not to say that Harmonix won’t be releasing any new games this year. Both Green Day: Rock Band and Rock Band 3 are expected to launch this year, but I know I can live with a two-year Rock Band cycle, so I don’t mind too much.

Only For The Night – RxB [Feedback]
Aug 4th, 2009 by Dan

Caught another live show of one of my favorite bands last week at the Recher Theatre in Towson, MD. The act was Rx Bandits and Dredg with Zechs Marquise opening and it was a great show.

The Recher is a great venue for these smaller shows. They’ve got bars on two of the walls of their rectangle, there’s more than enough room for a decent-sized show, and the size of the place gives you a nice intimate feeling with the bands that are playing. Like most shows, nothing really goes on for the openers. There might be a few diehard fans come to see the band play, but in general the crowd is mostly dispersed and moderately interested. The beauty of that night’s opener was that Zechs Marquise was playing a solid set and they actually got some of the more skeptical and jaded members of the audience, such as myself, interested in what they were doing up on stage. A mostly experimental group, their sound is complex with two guitars and a drummer, but no lyrics. The genre makes sense, considering that it seems to be a Mars Volta side project. I made a note in my iPod to check them out when I got home and consider a purchase, but then I saw that they were selling their album, Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare, for $10, so I thought “What the heck?” and I put down a Hamilton. What a mistake. I really should have taken some time to listen to them online first, because, and I’ve only made it through about eight tracks, but none of the complex rock guitars with drums I was hearing on stage seems to be on the disc. Instead I’ve got what initially seems like an hour of vaguely creepy-sounding ambient music, which would be fantastic if I had a haunted house, but seems pretty useless to me now. I’ll continue to give the disc a listen, but it hasn’t made a strong impression so far.

Their set was fantastic, I can’t deny that, so perhaps they’re a band best heard live instead of on CD, a real rarity in this world. At one point Steve Choi, keyboard player for the Bandits, came out and started rocking out with them. It was pretty cool. If they’re opening for a band you like, I’d recommend showing up early enough to catch their set.

Given how much I’ve gushed about the Bandits on the site before, I’m sure most of you can predict what I thought of their set. Like I’ve said before, their recording process is unique in that they give themselves only a few attempts and only overdub the vocals, horns, and some percussion in post-production. Since they haven’t got any horns anymore, it results in a set that sounds very organic and close to the CD, which has the unintended consequence of making it feel like I’m listening to a CD at times.

Rx opened with a Central American-inspired drum circle containing members of the band. This Latin influence was felt within their latest album, Mandala, and it definitely made its presence shown right at the start of the set. Given that Mandala launched the week prior to the show, it made sense for the band to play a few songs from the new album along with the older classics. Matt Embree and Steve Choi rocked out on guitars and I got to see a funny, lighthearted side of Embree when the cymbals on Christopher Tsagakis’ drum set seemed to be malfunctioning. As he tried to repair his kit by salvaging the cymbals off of another drum set, Matt started to play cymbals with the end of his guitar to try and keep the song sounding how it should. Another great moment was right near the finale. As he tried to calm down the room before the huge finale, he asked the house to turn down the lights. When they all didn’t go out at once, he started singing “And this one too, how about we turn this one off as well.” It was pretty funny and we all calmed down for the Bandits to blow us away with their closing number, “Only For The Night”, my favorite Bandits song. I can’t forget to mention how fantastic Joe Troy was on bass. He was seriously rocking out during the set.

No surprises here, the Bandits rocked my socks and went off the stage leaving me stunned at how good their set was. I tried to listen to Dredg a little, but they took so long getting out that my patience had worn thin (it was a Tuesday), so I went home during their first song.

Great night, great show, see Rx Bandits if they’re ever in a town near you.

Mandala [Feedback]
Jul 23rd, 2009 by Dan

I’m not ready to review the album yet, but the Rx Bandits have released a new album this week! It’s called Mandala and it’s an amazing listen. I’d have to say my favorite track so far is “White Lies.”

Get Mandala!

I’ll be seeing them live on 28 August and I can’t wait. There will probably be a concert wrap-up following the show along with a CD review soon.

Until then, enjoy this feature about the making of the album.

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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