Rancid are a punk rock institution at this point. Rising from the ashes of 924 Gilman legends Operation Ivy, the band quickly gained prominence in the 90s. Their third album, …And Out Come the Wolves, brought them an unexpected amount of mainstream success. “Ruby Soho” and “Time Bomb” were played on the radio and MTV, and the record eventually earned platinum certification. Case in point, the only other punk-related acts that were doing better than them at that magical time during the mid 90s were Green Day and The Offspring.
While their star has faded some, they’re still a popular and widely respected band in their scene. When they put out an album, it’s usually a big deal, especially since they don’t make new music quite as often as they used to. The three year gap between Honor Is All We Know and their newest outing Trouble Maker seems short compared to the six year gap between Indestructible and Let the Dominoes Fall. It’s safe to say they aren’t very prolific anymore – though all their albums have so many songs that I guess it sort of makes up for that.
Take Trouble Maker – the standard edition has 17 tracks, with the deluxe edition having 19. This isn’t unusual at all for Rancid, and somehow, they manage to pull this off most of the time, the mixed results of Indestructible and LTDF the only exceptions. This new record is a fine example of that. It hardly ever lets up or gets boring, and none of these tracks come off as filler, not even the b-sides.
The first thing I noticed when they announced it was that they used their original logo on the cover. One would assume this means a back-to-basics album, something like 2000’s self-titled album. For the most part, that’s what this is – this sounds like a spiritual successor to their ’94’s Let’s Go. While there are a couple of excursions into the ska-punk that defined their mid period (the song “Where I’m Going” especially), most of this is straight ahead punk rock, which is what this band is best at. One thing that’s been a big part of their sound for a while now is English oi, with a lot of their material almost sounding like a sped-up and modernized Sham 69. Good examples of this would be songs like “An Intimate Close Up of a Street Punk Trouble Maker”, “Farewell Lola Blue” and “Molly Make Up Your Mind” – it isn’t hard to imagine these tunes being played in a pub somewhere in London. Some songs veer off into more American-style hardcore punk (the opener “Track Fast”, as well as “All American Neighborhood”) but it still largely sounds like California’s answer to UK-style punk.
Rancid seem to be on an upward trajectory after the disappointingly inconsistent Indestructible and Let the Dominoes Fall. This is easily their best album since the old days, when they were still making the albums that many consider to be classics now. Will this be seen in the same light? Time will only tell, but for now, it’s safe to say they’re in a good place again.
Last modified: June 26, 2017