REVIEW: Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution: A Call to Arms
Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution: A Call to Arms [Self-Released, 2002] (mp3s)
Three words? steampunk ska carnival
Imagine a bunch of revolutionaries devoted to community, acoustic instruments, and a frenetic, ya-ya-ya energy. Imagine a jewel-case that is made of corrugated cardboard and duct tape. Imagine the Squirrel Nut Zippers doing ska - rasp-throated yells, the bazoom of horns, the buttoned-up sawing of a string quartet. The Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution are all this and more, and this five-song EP showcases their talents in a great way, setting feet a-dancin', ears a ringin'.
The Bandits' name, of course, demands that we first address the instrumentation. The group is an open-invitation crew of musicians with diverse musical background, and to a certain extent, this is well demonstrated in the recordings. Acoustic guitars and trumpets push and pull, drums smack, saxophones groove outta the corner. Occasionally there are moments of introspective strumming and hippie bongo-beats. For the most part, however, it's the melodic, punky feel of Great Big Fish ska, mixed with a generous dose of Victorian violins and cellos. The strings are used to great success - they give off a slight, pungent mustiness, flavouring the songs with a degree of sophistication and musical depth. The record opens with an overture of the group's many sounds - strings and horns, a percussive bash, latin-tinged guitar-picking over mellow "oohs". "Here's to Life" shows what the Bandits are all about, however; it's jumpy and giddy, with a shout-worthy chorus and grins all round. A terrific trombone solo and upright basswork lifts the lyrics high, a colourful salute to living.
Elsewhere it's much of the same - the deep-voiced ska calling on "Dear Sergio", the beachblanket horn-pop of "It's a Wonderful Life". It's this sameness that presents the disc's only disappointments: although there are occasional genre changes (breakdowns of spanish guitar, a short sonata clip, etc.), these pieces aren't fully integrated into the songs. Ska with interruptions, rather than a more original, hybridized creation.
It's a petty criticism however, especially for an EP, for the Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution have all the energy of the world's most successful ska acts, and what variety their music possesses, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones would kill for. A Call to Arms is fun, totally unserious, and yes - you can dance to it.