It was in 1994 at age thirteen that I first skipped a day of school and popped Rancids Lets Go into my stereo. Now thirteen years later, the album still holds up as a classic. Say what you will about their jump to a major label and the last two Rancid records; the fact remains that kids years from now will still pick up the Operation Ivy discography and the first couple of Rancid albums and fall in love with them. With that said, it was with hesitancy that I checked out A Poets Life, Tim Armstrongs solo debut. Given the disappointment from longtime fans surrounding recent Rancid side projects, I feared Armstrongs best songwriting years might be behind him. Holy shit was I wrong.
Upon first listen I knew this album would remain in my car all summer long. The Aggrolites serve as Tims backing band and crank out ten tracks rooted in the glory days of two-tone. While comparisons could be made to songs such as Ruby Soho or any of the two tone-influenced tracks on Life Wont Wait, these songs stray significantly from standard Rancid material. Despite the different sound, Armstrong is in top form on this album and Rancid loyalists should be into this.
Armstrongs raspy vocals serve as a nice counter to the clean two-tone sound, and his delivery (most tracks feature his staple talk-singing style) provides a fitting cadence to The Aggrolites laid-back tunes. Lyrically, not every track delivers, but the ones that do shine. Armstrong writes about girls, Los Angeles, and on my favorite track, Among the Dead, Operation Ivy. On Among the Dead he sings candidly about life post-Operation Ivy, fleshing out his emotions during that era. This song, along with Wake Up, Hold On, and Take This City hold up to even the best songs in Rancids catalogue.
A Poets Life is on par with the other great albums in Armstrongs canon and you will be hard-pressed to find a better record to serve as a soundtrack to your summer. If Armstrong continues to remain inspired, 2008 should be a great year for those looking forward to new music from Rancid.
Rancid, Operation Ivy, The Aggrolites, Summer, Drinking On The Beach
9.0 / 10
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