Tim Armstrong (Rancid) has spent over a year releasing a song a day on YouTube under the moniker Tim Timebomb. While astute fans can pull his work right off the internet these days, there’s just something about holding a record and being able to play it at your leisure. Pirate’s Press Records recently dropped three vinyl singles and, as they were quickly snatched up, they paired it with a longer player, the low price 3-disc “mixtape” package. It’s 36 songs, or maybe 10% of the total output from the project thus far. Only “Tulare” is missing from the 7”s.
While the song-a-day idea if grandiose and obviously doesn’t lead to success on every attempt, there have been a number of gems and these songs are handpicked as highlights. Some liner notes would be nice, or at least songwriting credits to acknowledge the covers on here, but at the price asked, it’s clear this is an item for those who demanded it, not to cash in on some kind of limited edition eBay frenzy.
Wordy intro aside, the three discs here (High Noon in a Dark Blue Sea, Special Lunacy, Winding Far Down) feature the same hit-and-miss ratio as the daily series. They’re roughly split by style, with High Noon being of the punker variety,Special Lunacy holding the experimental oddball songs, and Winding Down taking something of a reggae/ska approach. That, of course, is a general statement that doesn’t nearly summarize what’s on the discs. That would be a full essay while this review only intends to skim the surface.
While Rancid marks Armstrong’s more meticulously-crafted, punker songs, and his solo record with The Aggrolites marked his reggae interests, Tim Timebomb goes all over the place, exploring various styles akin to Rancid’s Life Won’t Wait but with less focus and less production. It’s not Armstrong exploring his roots, but instead he opens up the playbook, reneges genre, and just writes and plays music without giving a damn about how to market it. And with that openness comes some varied and damn fine work that wouldn’t fit anywhere with his other projects. There are covers of classics (“Concrete Jungle”), covers of modern songs (“Children’s Bread”) and lots of originals. Sometimes the songs feel like rough drafts of modern Rancid songs, as in “Honor Is All We Know,” yet it fails to stand out amongst Armstrong’s already heavy discography. At other times, the ska influence works in his benefit. “30 Pieces of Silver” is a dance-worthy jam and “Just for Tonight” and “Ooh La La” could have been on A Poet’s Life. These songs are all in a familiar style and well-achieved. Sometimes it gets a little too familiar, as in the Tim Timebomb cover of Jimmy Cliff covering Rancid (“Ruby Soho”).
It’s the outliers that get interesting. There’s countrified work (“I’m Movin’ On” and “Adalida”) and oddball tracks like the new wavey “I Wanna Get Rid of You,” the old-timey (“Blues Skies” and “Yes Sir”) or the dark-sounding “Chills and Fever” with its Danny Elfman/Tim Burton bassline that make Tim Timebomb its own thing. The voice in the songs is unmistakable and the hybrid fusion that Armstrong can bring, melding pop, punk, and other genres into a familiar and cohesive sound is a joy to listen to. Sure it’s got its mis-steps (like covering Bryan Adams), but when it works, it works. Tim Timebomb may be something of a vanity project, but it’s a quality and interesting one that should appeal to fans of music that tend to keep arms-length away from the tattooed, Mohican fashion associated with its creator while keeping the latter motley crew satisfied as well.
7.0 / 10
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