Tim Armstrong – A Poet’s Life

Tim Armstrong - A Poets LifePunks’ 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

The Bravery – The Sun and The Moon

The Bravery - The Sun and The MoonYou can see it in their faces on the album cover, that “what went wrong” kind of look. The Bravery were supposed to be New York’s next big thing, the new face riding the neo-new wave. Sadly in a sea of bands throwing in synthesizers and electronic drums not even a feud with The Killers could help them live up to the hype that hit most people long before the first single did. That’s not to say their first record wasn’t a modest success or solid from start to finish, it just wasn’t quite the splash everyone who heard the singles thought it was going to be. So with that out of the way let me say it was probably for the best and get on with this review.

The Sun and the Moon is a very subtle and mature departure from the sounds Bravery fans might be used to. It’s an indulgent record, but not selfish. The songs retain a comfortable structure and the album as a whole is polished and well rounded, The production is first-rate, but the mixing is where the post work really shines with all the little nuances popping out at just the right time perfectly accenting the feel of the songs. Vocally front man Sam Endicott works himself as just another instrument, going for the compliment rather than the hook (but still providing hooks-aplenty). Lyrically he pushes the abstract but with a little biased reading between the lines a theme of missed chances and perseverance appears from time to time. “Waiting for our ship to come, but our ships not coming back”.

The album starts with “believe” and “this is not the end” straight ahead rock tracks with bluesy heavy leads that drive the song. Ambient tones and harmonies with large passionate choruses and synth riffs there strictly for mood instead of movement. Both tracks follow a similar formula pulling the listener into the record. The tracks that follow, “Every Word Is a Knife in My Ear” and “Bad Sun” sound more like classic Bravery. Great dance songs, synth heavy, electronic drum, dangly earring, bob hair cut kind of stuff. Then the stand out song on the album ,“Time Won’t Let Me Go” , the kind of song that will show up on the sad uplifting part of Grey’s Anatomy or House. With the sing along bridge and outro this might be the sleeper summer song of 2007. Next up an acoustic bluesy song that doesn’t feel as out of place as it could. It does it job as a wind down track before the album takes a
different turn. If this were more of a cruising record this would be the song where you’re driving through the desert.

It is refreshing to hear a record the gets stronger in the second half. With obligations out of the way the songwriting really starts pushing itself. The structures loosen slightly and the songs start to have a more of the organic written with feeling more than formula touch. The backing vocals branch out with more creative risky melodies and it works. It is in this last half that fair-weather fans of the bravery will glaze over but music fans will really start to tune in. You can hear in the composition of the
last 5 tracks that The Bravery are taking chances and focusing on the sum of the parts being greater than the whole.

The album ends with a melancholy piece that crescendos into an ideal wrap up of The Sun and the Moon, a record that is quite impressive from start to finish. Major success on a grand scale might never be in the cards for these guys but integrity, substance and sold out shows in the “in vogue” venues is firmly in their grasp.

7.5/10 – JKE Dean

Zero 7 @ The Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver

Zero 7Zero 7 @ The Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver It’s a humid Saturday night in downtown Vancouver and hundreds are packed in the Commodore Ballroom awaiting the onstage arrival of UK electronica outfit, Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker — otherwise known collectively as Zero 7. Opening act Jose Gonzalez, vocalist on multiple tracks off Zero 7’s current and third album “The Garden”, treats us to his acoustic prowess and sombre singing style.

Badly Drawn Boy ends tour with dreary eyes, cigarettes and rye

Badly Drawn Boy “I need a break,” he says as he stops playing piano and lights up a cigarette. “You’ve seen me; I’ve been up here for fucking two hours.”

It was understandable that Damon Gough of Badly Drawn Boy was tired, as his band got stuck on the stateside border for four hours earlier in the day. Nevertheless, the fading enthusiasm just summed up what was little more than a mediocre live show.

Michael Franti & Spearhead @ The Commodore

Michael Franti SpearheadMichael Franti & Spearhead @ The Commodore As the familiar concert smoke flooded the ceiling region of Vancouver’s beautiful “Commodore Ballroom,” Xavier Rudd delved deeper into his amazing set. The Darwin born Australian one-man band stunned all in attendance, serving as the opening act. Rudd performed one of the best truly solo sets I’ve seen, utilizing three digereedos, several guitars of different variations, a harmonica suspended around his throat, a kick drum by his left foot and a microphone for his voice. Rudd affirmed the meaning of the word “independent.”

Citizen Cope @ Richards on Richards

Citizen CopeCitizen Cope @ Richards on Richards The last time Citizen Cope came through Vancouver, he performed at a small club. He was dubbed the “headliner” but there weren’t any other acts for him to reign over. Before he took the stage simply spun a Bob Marley compilation, which kept the eager crowd at bay. This time was different though. Cope performed for an audience with a couple hundred more members atop larger stage.

BREAKING NEWS: Anti-Flag storms Vancouver, seeks justice

Anti-FlagAnti-Flag original article

There is breaking news off the west coast of Canada tonight. Armed with guitar picks, drumsticks and a message, A New Kind of Army has landed on the shores of British Columbia and is marching east.

Anti-Flag, a pro-peace splinter-group of the international punk rock movement, is spearheading a mission into the heart of what has been dubbed The Terror State by the band.