Tim Armstrong

A Poet's Life

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Anyone looking for the punk rock sound of Rancid on Tim Armstrong's first solo album, A Poet's Life, might be left wondering where the loud guitars and charging tempos have gone. Instead with able backing from L.A. reggae revivalists the Aggrolites, Armstrong has crafted a grooving, fun-filled modern reggae album, influenced by ska, rock steady, roots reggae, and dancehall and filtered through a modern pop-punk attitude. The sound of the record (nimble, jumped-up, and retro but fully modern) impresses instantly, but as the record goes on, Armstrong's voice emerges as the star. His raspy croon, staccato toasting, and ragged shout fit the reggae sound surprisingly well. Sure, Rancid always had a huge Jamaican influence, but erasing all traces of punk from the sound is a risk. The first four songs will erase any doubts about that risk paying off and just might have you thinking the record's going to be a no-holds-barred classic. "Wake Up" is a rollicking, dubby warning to a friend to shape up, "Hold On" rides a wobbly organ line and a huge hook, "Into Action" is a slamming ska-pop song featuring vocals from teen pop punkette Skye Sweetnam of all people, and the rock steady ballad "Translator" is a sick-hearted but determined ode to perseverance with a brilliant Armstrong vocal. The second half fades a bit as the lyrical clunkers add up; Armstrong falls into cliché on "Take This City" and dives headlong into inanity on "Oh No," where he professes his love of L.A., nightlife, and rock & roll. Still, tunes like the silly but sweet love song "Lady Demeter" and the righteous "Inner City Violence" (which brings some necessary blood and fire to the proceedings) make up for the minor stumbles, and the whole record ends up being quite enjoyable. Armstrong may not exactly be a poet, but anyone who's heard any Rancid knows he makes great records. Now we know he can do it on his own.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
blue highlight denotes track pick