Music News

The Aggrolites: If Only White Reggae Fans Would Discover Them

I've never quite understood why so many white people like reggae music so much. I even say that as a white person who likes reggae music. Maybe it's just a phase. Sometime in middle school or high school, lots of white kids smoke weed for the first time and begin their obligatory stoner cycle. Attendant musical interests quickly follow.

So, yeah, they smoke a poorly rolled joint at a sleepover and, soon thereafter, they start buying Bob Marley shirts from Hot Topic and singing Peter Tosh's "Legalize It" in the shower. Eventually, they decide they want to learn to play guitar so they can be "that guitar guy at the party." Maybe they stick with the reggae phase as they go through college, getting so deep into it that they stop showering and ask some chick in their dorm to do their hair in dreadlocks. (Trust me, fellas: Nothing says "never getting laid" like a white guy with dreads.) Maybe they come across Sublime, Slightly Stoopid, and UB40.

Hopefully, somewhere along this path to musical enlightenment — a path beset on all sides by white folks singing about a Zion that many serious Rastafarians believe will be totally white-free — they discover The Aggrolites.

Put the sound of Toots and the Maytals in a blender with the edgy punk vocals of Pepper, the pop style of Michael Franti and Spearhead, The Dirty Heads sans rapping, a little romance, and an energetic uplifting island vibe, and you've got The Aggrolites. Their 2009 album, IV, is a compilation of warm and inviting light ska, funk, and a little taste of Latin soul that can instantly sweep you off your feet and leave you nodding your head and rolling your shoulders in no time. Turn on IV and you've got summertime year-round.

How many bands who favor imposing all-black outfits could successfully pull off a gig on the Nick Jr. children's television show Yo Gabba Gabba? Not many. While the song about bananas that they played on the show puts me in the mood for a piña colada more than a banana, it's impressive that they can appeal (no banana pun intended) to such a wide audience. The Aggrolites aren't just for fans of Reel Big Fish anymore. Parents and their kids can dig 'em, too.

The Aggrolites are much more worthy of your iPod's precious space than Matisyahu or Collie Buddz. Currently on tour with The Expendables and Bad Religion, the band is making moves. Considering so many lazy bands nowadays wrap up an album with 12 tracks, Aggro proves that they mean business with the 21 tracks they packed into their latest album.

The Aggrolites are also bringing back 1960s Jamaican skinhead reggae style — not to be confused with the racist skinhead punk style.

"We're not faking the funk," piano and organ player Roger Rivas said in a recent interview. Their fans know they're not faking it, too. At a gig they played in the Netherlands, the band played a significant portion of their set despite a power outage in the venue. Everyone in attendance didn't care about the lack of electricity and urged the band to keep playing, even if it was hard to hear the instruments.

The Aggros are a breath of fresh air for dirty reggae fans, constantly switching up genres from song to song and finally providing a sound they haven't quite heard before. Just as reggae is a mindset, the Aggrolites are a mood. What sets the Aggrolites apart from other reggae bands is their upbeat tone that will put new listeners in such a good mood that passing a spliff isn't necessary to enhance the already great musical experience. If that's not a testament to their quality, what could be?

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Lenni Rosenblum