Critic's Pick Release Date: 2009-07-15

If you listen long enough, the RX Bandits are practically guaranteed to play a song you absolutely hate. That’s the downside to this Long Beach band’s acute musical schizophrenia. The upside is whatever song’s pissing you off, it’ll be over very soon, and the Bandits will be onto something completely different. The RX Bandits started out as a ska outfit back when that was a somewhat less humiliating thing to be, but quickly branched into what we non-skankers refer to as “listenable music.” Aside from a few bars of “pick it up, pick it up” rhythm in opening prog-metal freakout “My Lonesome Only Friend,” you’d never guess the band’s latest album, Mandala (out July 21 on Sargent House), was the product of former ska perpetrators. Hell, you’d hardly guess it’s the product of a single band. Jazz-fused rock dominates, but “Mentras la Veo Sonar” somehow charts a route from ambient electronica to roc en español via Maroon 5’s whitewashed pop funk. “March of the Caterpillar” tries to find its way back but takes a detour through Jamaica. “Breakfast Cat” threatens to go full-metal and nearly pulls off the bluff, and “Bled to Be Free (The Operation)” condenses all of the above into a near-impenetrable four and a half minutes. On record it’s disorienting; try to dance to this stuff live, and you’ll probably look like you’re having a seizure.

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