Red Letter M - Red Letter M (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Red Letter M

Red Letter M (2004)


The progression of ska enthusiasts Rx Bandits is pretty clear. As far as the third wave went, the Bandits were right on track with earlier efforts like the seemingly improvised Those Damn Bandits! and the Sublime-esque grooves of Halfway Between Here And There. Only with Progress came just that - textured melodies and atmospheric, sometimes-reggae jam sessions, which clearly bled into their next album, Resignation. Incorporating the influence of jam bands like Phish or the Grateful Dead but simultaneously mixing it with roots-reaching reggae seems like an odd choice for most third wave ska bands, especially when most of which tend to base their style around the mid-90s punk sound. Maybe I'm getting a bit off base, since California's Red Letter M, whose cast includes ex-Codename Rocky members, don't even boast a horn section, or ska upstrokes for that matter - but the similarity they carry to the latter half of the Bandits' progression is eerie nonetheless.

Though plenty of times the croon of the vocalist can seem Matt Embree-trained, and the way the band resorts (in a good way) to very Bandits-like riffing during tempo increases is suspectible, the intro of "Cliff Diving With Carl Jung" definitely holds a Coheed vibe and opens the window further on the apparently progressive minds of the band members - which seems weird when considering the hip-hop segue that closes out almost half the song. It isn't all genre-hopping and hapless noodling, though - the band knows a good melody, like the chorus of "Bloodhound Will Hunt."

Speaking of progressive, the band even considered symmetry in the album's tracklisting: tracks 1 and 7 are roughly a minute each, 2 and 6 six minutes each, and 3 and 5 a little under five minutes apiece, with the middle track, 4, just missing the six-minute mark. It's a nice touch to the definitively-progressive feel of the record, if not a bit obsessive-compulsive, since deeming it a coincidence in a band's case like theirs just seems all too...coincidental.

Certainly, the half-hour EP can drag a little in places and is less overwhelming past multiple listens, but still holds strong as a pleasant and relatively enjoyable album, even though its place may be relegated to swell background noise after several spins. I'm convinced the band has something good in place here, as their hearts are in the right place. If they can give their melodies a strong, compelling nature and sonically expand on the jam parts a bit, the band should definitely make waves all in thanks to the influence of an above mentioned outfit who eventually chose to splash outside them.

"Have You Ever Danced With The Devil By The Pale Moonlight?"
Cliff Diving With Carl Jung

Killing Lincoln [clip]