Review Summary: A chilled out summing-up of Armstrong's career by the unique voice of the man himself
This review is because all the songs for this have now been made availible in various forms over the internet by Armstrong and the scheduled release date is in about 5 days, May 22nd. Hopefully this review will help people decide whether or not they should take advantage of Tim's downloading policy, or just go buy the thing (a move on the part of the distributor after the radio sucess of 'Into Action', or so i gather).
Tim Armstrong's solo effort is by all accounts a pretty good one in my opinion, focussing more heavily on an old-school ska sound which is held together by the superbly tight Hellcat-signed Aggrolites (acting as his backing band). Quite a few people will have heard Into Action by now, featuring Skye Sweetnam on backup vocals, but that song kinda sounds out of place on the album. Compared to the rest of the songs it is very quick and dancey, where the other songs have a slower, more chilled-out groove. It is a good song, but maybe should have headed the album instead of placing 3 tracks in, as it disrupts the vibe that is created by the first two tracks. This is not helped by the fact that the next track, 'Translator', is slow and carries a Buju Banton-style dancehall influence ( especially in its lyrical stylings). Lyrically Tim is often talking about different girls and how he wants to care for them blah blah. Yeah the lyrics aren't the standout point of 'A Poet's Life'. Some of the tracks are really really good though, with a nice blend of ska, sampling, DJing and Tim's mumbled vocals. If you liked 'Life Won't Wait' by Rancid (my personal favourite of their albums) then the blend here will sit well with you. Standout tracks here are 'Among The Dead' which recounts Tim's early life to a mourning reggae groove and a tale of Tim and his mates hitting the town in the fun 'Take This City'. There are a few weaker tracks - 'Oh No' is the main culprit for me, and ending tune 'Cold Blooded' has a cool creepy vibe but would maybe have worked better with actual lyrics. Throughout all the tracks the use of the organ really stands out for me - amplifying different aspects of the music, sounding soulful in 'Hold On' and contemplative in 'Among The Dead'. It really adds to the unique vibe created by this album.
There are downsides though - notably the lyrical aspect of the album. I like Tim's voice a lot and quite often his lyrics are pretty good, especially some of his one-liners, but 'A Poet's Life' misses out on this a lot of the time. Lyrics are quite often too obvious and this sometimes takes away from the songs (though he has still got some really good lines, and 'Among the Dead' has probably the best lyrics on the album, summing up his career quite nicely). Another weaker aspect if song structure. Songs often follow a rigid structure and a lot are too short, or are over too quickly. This is not usually a problem on Armstrong-penned records - the Transplants had variety and Rancid & Op Ivy have at least 19 songs on albums - but when there are only ten tracks, all at the same pace, it feels too short. This might just be me though, other might feel thealbum would get boring if it was any longer.
If I have one major critiscm of 'A Poet's Life' it is that it doesn't FEEL much like an album, more a collection of songs. However this may be due to the downloading aspect of tha album - some tracks came out well over 4 months ago and are ingrained by now, wheras the latest ones came out only a few days ago and are still unfamiliar.I suppose the best way to sum up 'A Poet's Life' is that it is a chilled out summing-up of Armstrong's career by the unique voice of the man himself. It is not as aggressive as the transplants, not as abrasive as Rancid, not as ska as Operation Ivy or Downfall, but takes aspects from all and brings them together to form a groove-infused album that is quite a lot of fun to listen to. Highlights for me are Tim talking about Op Ivy on 'Among The Dead' ("and Dave Mello....he was the drummer"); the old-school chicka-chicka-chicka groove on 'Into Action'; and the wailing harmonica on 'Lady Dementer'. Check out all the song videos at Tim's myspace page www.myspace.com/timarmstrongapoetslife
This looks promising. I've only heard Hold On, but it was pretty cool. Would you mind uploading this to Mediafire or Megaupload and then posting a thing here? That way, all of the tracks are in one place and what not. Thanks. Good review.
Yeah that Skye Sweetnam song a few years ago was really bad, I haven't even heard of her again until I heard she did something with Tim. I was wondering about checking this out, probably will soon. Though I'm looking more forward to a new Rancid album.
I liked this album a lot. I was pleasantly surprised. I think the strongest tracks are "Take This City", "Among the Dead", and "Wake Up", while the weakest are "Into Action" and "Inner City Violence". Overall, good stuff.
I can't believe this album is already 6 years old. I love this album! Aggrolites do a great job at backing Tim up. As much as I like the punk stuff Rancid puts out, I always enjoyed their ska and reggae more. Hopefully, he does a second album like this. Maybe to change it up, he could use the Hepcats or the Slackers as a backing band