Tim Armstrong – A Poet’s Life

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I try to maintain a line between the art and the artist, and for the most part, am pretty careful not to fall into hero worship, while also not sacrificing my principles just because someone happens to be able to write a nice song. I am 100% creeped out by the fact that Armstrong, in his 30s, married 18 year old Brody Dalle, whom he met when she was 16. Given the ugly split that followed, I can only assume that any actual sexual abuse of a minor would’ve been reported. Or at least I can reasonably move forward with no knowledge that such occurred. Still, it makes me extremely uncomfortable. As an artist, I love Armstrong. I am a big Rancid (though not an Operation Ivy) fan, and I was very happy to find this solo album. And then I was happy to find that it was a ska album (and if it is also rocksteady or whatever, then, you know, sorrynotsorry). Armstong seems very much like he is super comfortable just doing whatever he feels like. I wasn’t familiar with the backing band here – the Aggrolites – but I get the sense that they view Armstrong, not unreasonably, as an elder statesman. I like the fact that as he has aged his look has gotten weirder and weirder, and I approve of the Gretsch that he plays.

What I Think of This Album

The first few tracks here are killer. “Wake Up” is a loping, catchy number with Armstrong’s raspy and half-enunciated vocals calling out to a misguided friend (or partner). “Hold On” is an organ-driven gem, and “Into Action” features sunny horns parts and the surprise vocals of Skye Sweetnam urging you to get off the couch (as well as a sly reference to Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”). By the way, the credits are next-to-impossible to read; you’re going to need an internet connection to figure that shit out.

Overall, Armstrong sounds great, even if you can’t always tell what he is saying, and the band is tight; the musicianship here is excellent and the production comes as close to authentic sounding as you could hope for (the dubby accents that pop up here and there are priceless).

“Take This City” has a great arrangement, while “Translator” and “Lady Demeter” slow things down a bit, the former making wise use of backing vocals and the latter maybe sounding a bit like “A Message to You, Rudy” (popularized by the Specials) in the opening horn strains and rhythm. “Inner City Violence” is more reggae than ska, and I don’t care for reggae, but it’s pretty good. “Among the Dead” also sounds a bit derivative – yeah, I understand, this is Tim Armstrong’s ska album from 2007 – but it’s no less enjoyable for it. This is basically a well executed, feel-good album, which I think is what you want from ska.

The Best Thing About This Album

This is a tough call. There is a lot here to like. I’m going to have to go with “Into Action.” Respect.

Release Date

May, 2007

The Cover Art

Meh. A bit too stark given what’s inside, and the lack of sharpness is annoying. The font is silly.

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