4 stars (out of 4)
Rob Aston was working the merchandise table at an AFI concert when Rancid's Tim Armstrong wandered by. Armstrong mentioned he'd worked up some patchwork punk songs made from samples and tape loops for which he needed lyrics. Aston, who'd never been in a band before, said he could write some. Soon, they had a few dozen songs ready, but something was missing: a real drummer. They put out a call, and Travis Barker from Blink-182 and Boxcar Racer stopped over for five hours to lay down drum tracks. The result comes perilously close to being the best album Armstrong has ever done.
The sound mixes The Clash's reggae-fueled rock 'n' roll with East Bay punk-metal, and it piles on white boy monotone shouted vocals. The vibe is 40-ouncers, cigarettes and tattoos.
Prime songs: the party anthem "Tall Cans in the Air"; the bouncing London-Kingston rocker "Diamonds and Guns" punctuated by piano and Stonesy woo-woos; and the wistful "Sad but True" and "Weigh on My Mind," both elevated by Vic Ruggiero's B3 organ.
A few raging hard-core tracks might scare off timid listeners, but rough-cut diamonds are hiding in here. A punk classic.
Recommended If You Like: The Clash, AFI (whose frontman Davey Havok co-wrote and plays on one song), The Distillers, Tiger Army
--- Mark Robison, Calendar editor
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