Reggae Hit L.A. is kinda like that girl you knew in college who, although she had her fair share of “experimentation” those first two semesters, never really “found herself” and came dangerously close to flunking out. Fresh off of backing Tim Armstrong on his solo album, The Aggrolites get back to work cranking out reggae/ska/punk blends on Reggae Hit L.A.. This time, the group has changed up their formula, incorporating more R&B and soul-flavoring to the mix. While the mixed bag of surprises yields some strong songs scattered throughout, the end result of the disc sounds like the Aggrolites are floundering for a new style that they’re still unsure of.
The band’s latest direction of soul-reggae is undoubtedly the highlight of the album with tracks like the surprisingly soulful “Faster Bullet” with its reggae-laden Motown groove and the album’s title cut channeling James Brown and milking extra mileage from the Aggrolite’s horn section. Beyond the superlative blending of voices with “Let’s Pack Our Bags”—sounding as if the band dusted off some Platters records—and experimental pieces like “Baldheaded Rooster (Chapter 3)” with its kicky blend of reggae with synthesizer and sitar thrown in, the Aggrolites go overboard with instrumentals that become a repetitive drag at several turns on the album.
Skating the edge of a near identity crisis, Reggae Hit L.A. proffers evidence that on this go ‘round, the band can’t decide whether they want to be a reggae jam band, Sublime minus the ripping rock edge, or neo-Motown style reggae. While the disc offers a significantly more energetic alternative to ambient music, something with a bit more octane to crank in the background, there’s not much that hops directly up from the disc and cracks you cold in the jaw. Instead of fleshing out a definitive new direction or cultivating a heartier blend of their own style, Reggae Hit L.A. shows the Aggrolites dabbling a little too much without commitment and not achieving what could have been a solid new sound.
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