The Aggrolites have returned with their sixth studio album REGGAE NOW! a continuation of their unique brand of funky soulful skinhead reggae. This organ driven “dirty reggae” has almost never felt so tight and cohesive as what they put on display here.
“Pound for Pound” opens the album with a self-promotional dance number. “Boss of hot sauce or what else it may be, Aggro is Aggro stylistically” Jesse toasts over a classic Aggrolites rhythm so steady you could use it to set your watch. This upbeat rocksteady style gets revisited on several tracks, as “Groove Them Move Them” and “Aggro Reggae Party” are sure to be quick additions to summer party playlists. While songs “People Win” and “Help Man” deliver on a more classic Aggrolites sound, where the vocals are delivered with a little more power. Focusing more on delivering the story than harmonizing with the instruments. “Help Man” has the “Countryman Fiddle” style of storytelling that is extremely popular with fans, especially in a live setting.
REGGAE NOW! has The Aggrolites showcasing more of their soulful side. The first track to do this is “Say or Do” which sounds like it was directly lifted off an Alton Ellis album. It has the steady rhythm but the vocals sound poured directly from Motown and displays a deeper sense of emotion. “Love Me Tonight” follows with a beautiful love song that showcases some delightful vocal harmonies. Even the final track, the instrumental “Shadow Walk”, puts some emotion in a dub track.
Speaking of instrumentals there are several to be found here, as what would a roots reggae album be without at least a couple. However, other than “Shadow Walk” and “15 or 50”, these tracks do not do enough to differentiate themselves from the rest of the album. They are most certainly very danceable and may sound better in a live setting but here they tend to blur into the other songs without carving their own space. It makes for a serene playlist for the background, but does not quite draw the attention as some of the other songs found here.
The Aggrolites have always sounded like a punk band trying to play a traditional rocksteady reggae sound, where they would loosely incorporate many different styles of music into a unique blend they dubbed “dirty reggae”. On REGGAE NOW! they have fully evolved into a world class reggae band with a tight incorporation of jazz, funk, and blues. One could almost forget the “dirty” aspect to this sound as the music is as bright and clean as the Caribbean origins of the genre.