RX Bandits have achieved a lot since their inception in 1995, subject to contractual ‘lock-down’ during their naively impressionable early days under a different name in another incarnation (The Pharmaceutical Bandits).
From their embryonic formation, they have experienced twists and turns that have seen them progress and branch away from their initially rooted third-wave-ska influences of the 1990s, maturing and injecting modernised fragments of collaged multi-faceted elements of Latin, prog-rocked, politico-punk, dub-reggaed, blues-esque, funk-pop sensibilities, complete with keys and brass section (trombones, saxophones and horns) to boot.
The Resignation became a monolithic landmark for the band, when released as double packaged (CD/DVD) in 2003.
Ten years have passed now in which RX Bandits have taken daringly fearless risks, going against the prosaically safe grain that lead to the death of numerous bands, who unwittingly became subject to a transient commodity-driven marketable boom-then-bust economic model – taking many bands back to the day jobs.
RX Bandits chose a route that has proven sustainably robust, reinventing and revolutionising their identity, all while preserving the foundational aspects of their mathematically mapped instrumentation and socially conscientious lyrical tirades.
It has been through this daringness – juxtaposed with a consistently robust work ethic – that has seen that their longevity leave an indelible mark on fans worldwide.
The combinational mosaic has resulted in a growing army of hardcore fans – snowballingly joining the band in a trek of unpredictability, witnessing numerous line-up changes – embracingly supporting a band constantly attacking a bombardment of tidal boundaries; boundaries pumped with a galvanized, business minded gusto with no time for diversification.
Tonight sees the band enter stage left to a packed King Tut’s crowd.
The band are energetically welcomed back to Glasgow with rapturous applause – Matt Embree, donning trademark headband and languid facial growth – gesticulatively holding out the piece sign, exerting it back and forth from his chest showing his appreciation – a cult figure who has etched his mark into the punk hall of fame.
The band blast straight into first track ‘Sell You Beautiful’, which is played with fastidious gusto, the preciously mixed veil of guitars and drums, amply augmented with helping hand from the ardent army of hardcore fans singing along – word-for-word – hanging on to every minute, miniscule, infinitesimal detail.
The immaculate performance sets the scene for what is to come; breathlessly jumping into ‘Prophetic’ it’s all eyes on band; nobody wanting to miss a beat; no disengaging chat; shuffling around checking if a refill is in order, just an unadulterated gaze – fixated toward the stage.
‘Overcome (The Recapitulation)’ is worth the price of admission alone.
The reverberating tone of Embree’s vocal chant “we’ve had enough” extracts roars and cheers amongst the crowd negating the need for invitation, as evocation has everyone already partaking in the séanced chants by the time the band send out inviting gestures to join in.
The ubiquitously appropriate lyricism of “…we’ve had enough of these politicians…” resonates perfectly with the Glaswegian crowd, uniting the geographical divide – both – microcosmically and transatlantically.
The extended brass midsections in both ‘Never Slept So Soundly’ and the Andy Summers – stacked 5ths influenced – guitar opening to ‘Taking Chase As The Serpent Slithers’, are awe-inspiringly fantastic; playing alongside the tight, dub influenced rhythmic section of Troy and Tsagakis, with the latter exerting high energy high-hat, ghost note, reggae-back-beats, creating a tour-de-force drum and bass section, overwhelmingly creating a compellingly hypnotic and ethereal reverie.
Furthered with an improvisational achromatic saxophone solo intertwining expertly with duel-delayed guitars; the trombone resonating underneath the overall mix, with subtle embellishments from Choi’s keys providing the sounds of an eloquently placed organ – the clustering decibels all add to the boundless soundscapes, sublimely augmenting a thick and densely packed sound from the six-piece.
‘Mastering the List’ brings out a Ron Ayers inspired 80s cop-show-jazz/funk fusion with Troy and Tsagakis further excelling here, so much so that the catchy chorus requires an emotively pelted-out-gallantness from the expandingly diaphragmic and deep-rooted colossal tonal abyss exuded from Embree, competing with reactively combustible snare triplets and sextuplets battered in a syncopated off-beat fashion, culminating in a masterfully reggae inspired two handed hi-hat drum section.
The relatively fast drumbeats form a canvas on which the delayed guitars and brass section can alternate in a formulaic but equally effective question-and-answer camaraderie.
Tsakakis’s unorthodox rhythms, combined with concrete bass grooves, keeping the guessing game alive with the high-energy polyrhythms and straightforward grooves interlacing and cementing the whole section together.
‘Falling Down the Mountain’ allows for a great jazz inspired outro, with a languished and lazy saxophone and trombone sounding more suited to the opening of Crimsons’ Catfish.
‘Dinni-Dawg (And the Inevitable Onset of Lunacy’, ‘Pal-Treaux’, and ‘Decrescendo’ bring the night full circle with the lyrical assurgency emerging back to the forefront, expelled with integrity driven conviction.
There is no time for banter as the boys have a mission to complete and the band-crowd rapport is adeptly transitioned through the dynamicism of the lyrical content and instrumental arrangements, with the band mercilessly roaring through the twelve-track behemoth leaving no room for hackneyed bar (mis)adventures.
With the crowd still insatiably raring for an encore, nobody leaves – everybody beckoning the band to come back onto the stage.
The Bandits are overwhelmed with the response – as Embee finally has time to describe his appreciation for the Glasgow crowd – stating that “we love Glasgow… We always have a great time over here”.
It’s a nice sentiment, however there are songs to be played and a curfew to beat.
The band finish off playing much loved tracks from …And Let The Battle Begin, including ‘Apparition’ and ‘1980’, and these tracks are not performed in obligatory fashion, which further testament of a band who are excruciatingly loyal to their fans.
It’s been a truly remarkable night.
Words: Derek Robertson
Photos: Jayjay Robertson