written by Mike Cox
I can recall in vivid detail, the moment I first heard The Aggrolites. We were pulling onto the Santa Monica freeway somewhere
around 11:00 P.M., claustrophobic from the San Francisco to L.A. drive. Though on the verge of being stir – crazy, we were pumped, just an hour drive from the old stomping grounds. Give ‘Em The Boot IV; the latest compilation from Hellcat Records was churning in the stereo, and what comes rippling through the speakers? Dirty Reggae. It was pure jubilation, the windows went down, the volume went up, and something started burning. It was summertime and we were on vacation.
This last week I was once again afforded those splendid emotions, and not by coincidence, The Aggrolites were a major factor.
Though the So-Cal quintets’ self – titled release is not exactly brand new by time standards, it is in fact brand new to a significant
audience. Released in May of 2006, The Aggrolites was typically an on-line purchase. You knew what you wanted and where to get it. You liked Reggae Hit L.A. or maybe you (like me) picked up G.E.T.B. IV simply because you like a lot of what Hellcat puts out. Regardless 2007 saw The Aggrolites backing Tim Armstrong (Op. Ivy/ Rancid) on his solo debut, opening themselves up to a whole new audience and semi-mainstream availability. They do not disappoint! Having backed reggae legends along the lines of Prince Buster, King Terror and so many others, the band has street cred, this is not Snow trying to pass off Informer as real roots rock.
The Aggrolites- a name honoring both the Aggrovators and The Crystalites- happened almost by chance. Brian Dixon put together two line-ups’ in support of Derrick Morgan, one for the ska sessions and one for reggae. Somewhere along the line, Dixon asked the members of both camps if they’d like to continue touring. Thus a band was born.
Funky Fire kicks things off it’s this crazy, groovy, revival tune that really showcases frontman Jesse Wagner’s vocal ability (intense
yet soulful) and Roger Rivas’s aptitude on the keys. The feel good jam is followed directly by Mr. Misery, a down-tempo ode to some mystical dark figure with the powers to transcend emotion and task. These two tracks are easily the most powerful one-two punch on the album.
Listeners will notice some formidable influences, the late 60’s early 70’s revival sound so prevalent with Toot’s and the Maytals and the Wailers. Some critics have had the audacity to say these influences are too heavy. Amateurs. The only thing heavy about this album is the sound, and that is just the way I like it.
At 19 tracks, the album is not light on content. Other notables in rotation include the country funky Countryman Fiddle, a twangy ditty about a boy and his grandfather sharing the joy of song. Introducing one another to new sounds and new generations. Lightning & Thunder clocks in a soulful salute to the impoverished of the world and at the same time, a scathing warning to those who have it all. Prisoner Song is a classic waiting to happen. Its’ deep organ groove, flows seamlessly with the punk lyrics and introspection.
Also included on the album are six instrumentals, again some critics have had the gumption to call it filler. I don’t see it that way. All you have to do is listen to tunes like Grave Digger or 5 Deadly Venoms to appreciate the melodic arrangement. The tracks are well placed and don’t drag, pairing perfectly with the overall sound.
Thoughtful and emotional, the album should sell well in several different circles. Reggae purists will respect it. Punks will buy it
(everyone needs some down time) and your girl will love it. It’s the perfect soundtrack for your soul summer.