Chilled out in to action
It was always going to be a wonder as to what this album was going to sound like. The Rancid lead singer, who has also been the main man to alternative rap/rock band Transplants, has never been worried about experimenting. Throughout Rancid's career, we have seen albums that have songs stretching right through the street punk genre, including many aspects of other songs like ska and reggae which has always added a new dimension to the band, and of course opened them up to new crowds of people. Along with this he has co-written and produced many other acts including Pink, who he co-wrote eight of the fourteen tracks on her album, 2003's 'Try This', which included the hit single, 'Trouble'.
So what we get here are ten tracks that are very Tim Armstrong, when he is taking a breather from street punk. The songs are very ska and reggae influenced, sounding more like mellow Transplants than Rancid. Fist two songs, 'Wake Up' and 'Hold On' both appeared on Rancid's MySpace page three or four months ago, and are both gentle and slow ska/reggae influenced songs with trumpets and keyboards. Both are very good, catchy songs. The former having echoes of Jimmy Cliff's, 'The Harder They Come'.
Now, 'Into Action' is a song that will raise your eyebrows, but you can't help but like it. It's very dancehall reggae, with a pop feel to it, and with guitar riffs straight from the Beach Boys! The chorus has female vocals that sound a little like Gwen Steffani, (although is actually Canadian singer Skye Sweetnam) and this song has single written all over it. It's even slightly rockabilly mixed with the ska, and so has flashes of Hellcat label mates Horrorpops. 'Translator' is pure reggae with a harmony chorus that sounds a little like Reel Big Fish, when they are doing there thing.
It's probably worth mentioning the rest of the band, who are in fact a band in their own right, The Aggrolites, who are also signed to Tim Armstrong's label, Hellcat Records. They do usually play this sort of laid back ska/reggae, so they are of course just doing what they do best! 'Inner City Violence' could have been on the most recent Transplants record with street beats of reggae guitars and record scratching. 'Oh No' is another mid tempo number that is clean and catchy, whilst once again things turn totally reggae for, 'Lady Demeter' which is a love song with backing vocals that sound straight out of a band from the 50's. This is probably a good example of how the whole of this album could be timeless, reaching out on rock'n'roll music from the fifties, with London's ska beats from the early eighty's, mixed with reggae from late eighty's, all wrap up with the clean production and finishing sheen of today's music.
'Among The Dead' again is a mixture of fifties music with ska beats and psychobilly lyrics about walking among the dead. Heavily leaden with keyboards and short rhythmic guitars it's a truly great song. The same can be said of the last song, 'Cold Blooded' which is in fact an instrumental, but one that sounds better and better each time I listen to it, which must be good as I usually think instrumentals are about as much use as a one armed man in a clapping contest.
There is also a DVD with this which boasts videos to all of the songs, although I would say that they are all shot in an interesting way! They are all black and white, which is to say the colours only comprise of black and white, with no greys or shading of any sort, so it is very hard to see any details whatsoever, and it's not long before you give up! All ten songs are shot like this, and pretty much go from shots of the band playing, to shots of cities, most notably Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and er, Brighton.
So all in all we have an album packed with catchy tunes that are pretty timeless, that draws on influences from many genres over the years. The anger and balls-to-the-wall tough attitude is absent here, as Tim gives us an album that you can chill out and have fun to, and although the beats aren't as aggressive there are still some tough messages here in the lyrics. This isn't a punk album by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not a pop album or a reggae album either. So let's get that straight from the start.
Apparently a new Rancid album will be coming out sometime soon, and there are also plans for a third Transplants album, so this is more than a nice musical bridge until then. Tim Armstrong has been deemed the new Joe Strummer, and you know what? People might just be right.