Punks’ not dead! It’s just aging. No matter how you look at it, whether a roots revival or the evolution of style, Tim Armstrong’s new solo venture “A Poets Life” reeks with that disillusioned inner-city seediness that has for so long defined punk rock.
Straying from the true to form definition of punk, Armstrong seems to have revisited some of the more important roots. Mixing true ska and classic Jamaican dancehall with a little DIY punk attitude, gives “A Poets Life” that truly gritty heart wrenching sound. Backed by the L.A. based Aggrolites (one of the few true American dancehall bands), who seem to lay down the perfect beats. Be it party anthem or political banter, these cats are right on.
Now punk purists and pre-teen posers are gonna bitch, the former simply because it’s different, the latter due to the fact that they know what punk looks like. They can save it. Punk always has been and always will be about being different. If you’re too scared to try new things, (obliviously
Armstrong’s not) then leave this one alone.
Keep in mind no-one’s saying every track is great, that’s just not the case. Take for example “Oh No” an ode to Armstrong’s love for Los Angeles. It just doesn’t show the lyrical prowess he’s graced us with over the years. ” Lady Demeter” is another tired example. A rambling roost revolving around some wannabe gangsta club girl that just comes up empty.
On the flipside, we’re still treated to the rebellious party anthems we’ve come to know and love. “Into Action” showcases Armstrong’s undying love for the East Bay and the entire Golden State. Regardless as to my locale, every time I listen to it, I’m prime for Saturday night, rollin’ across the Bay Bridge, top down and spliff burning. “Take This City” is another anthem venturing back to the old days. Rolling around aimlessly in the Caddie, nowhere to go, nothing to do and lovin’ every minute of it.
Fun and games aside, we do have the obligatory political banter. What’s respectable here is that Tim’s not trying to come off as a martyr. He’s just trying to pen everyday life. “Inner City Violence” though full of modern propaganda directed at conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, could just as easily describe daily life in many American cities. Metaphorically describing the sense of hopelessness and oppression so many inner-city residents are forced to live with. Growing up impoverished and under privileged has been a constant theme in Armstrong’s music over the years. Gutter Punks from San Francisco to Seattle and out to N.Y.C. will no doubt connect with the tragic tone that “Among The Dead” sets. Waxing sentimental, Armstrong spotlights the blight of young homelessness in the East Bay, having been one of the many whose only roots stem from the once blossoming Berkeley scene. The final verse resolute: “Lets’ give a try, Give it one more run”.
– Mike Cox