Young Cub Records
Sure, the Aggrolites have recently been Tim Armstrong’s backing band. The Aggrolites have played the fucking Warped Tour, repeatedly. I would never even have given this band the time of day had they not sent us a really beautiful red vinyl 12”. And that would have been a shame, because during those moments when I’ve had a glass of scotch and am at my most receptive, I feel like Rugged Road by the Aggrolites is the finest modern piece of classic reggae I’ve heard in a quarter century.
And the scotch helps, because there’s an enraged musical purist at the forefront of my brain that knows this is an extension of the nineties ska revival and that still feels betrayed by how shameful I felt at being a ska fan in the early 90s, only to see the genre bloat on its own gas into ska-punk and devolve into terrible bands as far-flung as Sublime, Gogol Bordello, and (early) No Doubt. Somehow the Aggrolites are of that Warped world, and yet they have successfully fought its worst urges and drained all the suck out, leaving behind a “dirty reggae” sound that is highly pure, largely instrumental, organ-driven, and at times even beautiful. Listening to this album is like watching the female skinheads of This Is England walking down the street in their braces and boots. It’s late 60s reggae, just without the pops and scratches, and it might even make you like Tim Armstrong, just a little bit.