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Tim Armstrong – A Poet’s Life
A Poet's Life - Hellcat Records
I’ve always been mildly attracted to The Aggrolites, their reggae/rocksteady melodies have always impressed me. However, there was always something missing in their vocal delivery. While it’s hard to explain, the vocals always turned me away from their records and onto other albums. But now I’ve solved that problem thanks to Tim Armstrong‘s wonderful debut solo record, A Poet’s Life; for you see, on A Poet’s Life, Armstrong melds with song writing ability and always unique vocal delivery together with the style of the The Aggrolites as his band on the record.
Filled with beautifully written mid tempo rock steady tracks, A Poet’s Life hones in on what so many reggae bands try to capture but fall short on. The album is a upbeat yet laid back throwback to Jamaican performers like Desmond Dekker. Every little sound and instrument is crisp and clear, working together to get the listener bopping his head and two-stepping (that is, before the hardcore kids took over the term). But while almost any reggae act can have that musical element and beat to their sound, Armstrong successfully adds his own style and flare to every song – and it is in those snippets that A Poet’s Lifereally shines.
First up is the man’s signature nasally vocals. It is those vocals that have become a signature sound in the punk scene over the past few decades and it is those vocals that bring the album to new heights. Secondly is Armstrong‘s unique writing flare and vision. The addition of DJ Odi of The Circle, along with the doubling up of Armstrong’s voice, on Inner City Violence leans a bit towards The Tranplants material, while Ritchie Stites‘ vocals on Translator constantly remind me of Reel Big Fish‘s Scott Klopfenstein when he tried to go for the weird high pitch notes – and both of those surprising guests fit and work perfectly.
Oddly enough, that’s not even the weirdest guest appearance. Do you remember the song Billy Shakespeare by Skye Sweetnam? Yeah, she’s the female singer on the single Into Action – and if you’ve heard the single I dare you to say that she doesn’t do the song justice and make it even better.
On top of all of that, the one shining quality that makes the album so spectacular is the carefully crafted companionship between Armstrong‘s vocals and The Aggrolites‘ music. They successfully work off one another, each letting the other take control of the song at the needed moments so it never becomes overwhelming and it’s constantly maintains the same momentum.
Anyone who likes ska, this one’s for you. Anyone who likes reggae, this one’s for you. Anyone who likes rocksteady anthems, this one’s for you. It shows why Tim Armstrong is a musical legend and is more than just one more page in his already impressive resume. It shows what can be done if you’re not afraid to wear your influences on your sleeve and mix those in with your own musical ideas. Basically, this album is great.