Fan’s Guide To: One Man Army
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Legend has it, One Man Army was playing in a Bay Area bar when Billie Joe Armstrong (Pinhead Gunpowder, The Network, Green Day) stopped in for a beer. He was so impressed with the blistering punk band that he started Adelaide Records to put out their first record. The group’s singer, Jack Dalrymple, went on to co-front Dead To Me, play rhythm guitar for punk stalwarts Swingin’ Utters, and front his own group toyGuitar. In a run of three albums and a split, One Man Army put out some of the best punk of the early 2000s, but they do not seem to be remembered that way—possibly because they music is mainly absent from streaming services—or to hold the same standing as some of the other groups of that era who, frankly, made worse music.
The argument of how to define punk music is an exhausting and often maddening one. As the genre has grown, what constitutes “punk” is more about the attitudes, ideas, and approach of the band than whether or not they’re playing three-chord songs in two minutes with minimal solos. One Man Army, however, is a band rooted in that “traditional” punk sound of when the term instantly brought to mind leather jackets and liberty spikes. They make punk-ass-punk. Just three people ripping through twelve songs in about 30 minutes. It’s the type of music that can either be extremely pedestrian in the hands of lesser musicians or something that sticks in your brain for the rest of your life in the hands of a group like One Man Army.
Dead End Stories (1998)
Short version: Raw, melodic street punk that hints at the band’s capabilities.
Long version: One Man Army’s debut record is their rawest sounding, but it’s not exactly rough around the edges. All the elements of the group’s sound are apparent from early on, with Dalrymple’s raspy voice being the glue that holds it all together. He has one of those quintessential punk voices that sounds perfect gravelly, while not taking anything away from his ability to hit the correct notes with a strong tone. While most of the album sticks with meat-and-potatoes punk, the group dabbles with some ska vibes on “Stuck In The Avenues” and brings out the riffs for “Another Time.”
Key Tracks: “Another Dead End Story,” “Stuck In The Avenues,” “Downtown Lights”
Last Word Spoken (2000)
Short version: Breakneck speeds, with a little more polish and pop sensibility than Dead End Stories.
Long version: Last Word Spoken brought a lineup change with Heiko Schrepel on bass, while also tapping Billie Joe Armstrong to produce. The production is slicker than Dead End Stories, but it would be outrageous to call the album overly-produced. While they keep the tempos fast, the addition of occasional acoustic guitars gives this record a notably different feel. It’s packed with singalongs and catchy melodies and stays true to the band’s sound while at the same time being a noticeable step forward.
Key Tracks: “Another Night,” “Last Word Spoken,” “The Tune of the Leisure Pace”
Rumors and Headlines (2002)
Short version: Some slightly slower tempos and more candid moments find the band hitting their stride.
Long version: One Man Army’s final full-length is also their best. Rumors and Headlines is still very much a punk record, but the band allows the tempos to pull back a bit and let the lyrics take center stage, often focusing on the lows of existence with lines like “And the pills that they gave me just give me the shits / I don’t think they work I’m supposed to fit in” and “On this Tuesday, July 2nd / I hate everyone under the sun again.” The album features longer guitar solos, stronger singalongs, and just an all-around tighter group than the previous two records. The fact that it’s the band’s final full-length only leaves you wondering at where they could have gone next.
Key Tracks: “Victoria,” “S.O.S.,” “Rotting in the Doldrums”/”Sleeper”
Split w/ Alkaline Trio (2004)
Short version: Blurring the lines between punk, indie, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll for the band’s most immediate release.
Long version: While I would rank Rumors and Headlines as my favorite, you could easily make a pretty reasonable argument that the 2004 BYO split is One Man Army’s strongest collection of songs. The band sounds their most confident here, building on the ideas in Rumors and Headlines and coming up with a catchy batch of radio-friendly tunes. “All The Way” takes the age-old “Stand by Me” chord pattern, making it feel like a twisted take on ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll (which, I suppose, is kind of what a lot of early punk was). The band doesn’t smooth out the edges too much though, as “Let’s Call It An Evening” ends with a refrain of “I don’t care, I won’t do it ’cause I need to / I’ll play it faster ’cause I hate you / I can even play it out of tune.”
Key Tracks: “The Radio Airwaves Gave Me A Lobotomy,” “All The Way,” “Let’s Call It An Evening”
Aaron Eisenreich // @slobboyreject
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