By 1987, Punk was over a decade old - a lifetime in pop culture. Funny thing, the same conditions and sense of desperation that initially sparked the movement still existed. In a blue-collar California backwater (Albany) guitarist/vocalist Tim Armstrong and bassist Matt Freeman (aka Matt McCall) started the short-lived Operation Ivy. When that group bit the dust, Armstrong and Freeman teamed with drummer Brett Reed to form Rancid. The group produced a five track "single" "I'm Not The Only One." They considered adding Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong as a second guitarist but went with Lars Frederiksen during the recording of their debut album. The self-titled '93 album on the legendary Epitaph Records launched the group on their first national tour followed by European dates.
In '94, the epic (23 songs) "Let's Go" was released to critical acclaim and platinum sales. Success like that doesn't go unnoticed. Soon the group was offered a contract with Madonna's Maverick label and Epic Records. Rancid turned them down deciding to stay with their "friends" Epitaph. "… And The Wolves Came Out" hit in '95 and it too was a major seller. The album, notable for "Time Bomb" and "Ruby Soho," saw Rancid broaden their sound. Three years later "Life Won't Wait" featured tracks recorded in Jamaica and the song "Cash, Culture and Violence" recorded with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' vocalist Dicky Barrett. After and extended break, including some side projects, Rancid unleashed "Indestructible" in '03. But after a supporting trek, Rancid went on yet another hiatus. Armstrong's The Transplants issued "Haunted Cities" ('05) and he released a solo LP, "A Poet's Life" ('07). Freeman toured with Social Distortion until a permanent bassist could be found.
Rancid got back together for some '06 acoustic shows that became part of Hellcat Records' "Hellcat Nights." The group released a DVD containing all their music videos to date in advance of a world tour. However, Reed checked out and Branden Steineckert was selected as his replacement. Next, the group issued "B Sides And C Sides" which as the name implied was a collection of songs that were on the flipside of singles or had appeared on compilations.
Rancid released "Let The Dominoes Fall" in '09. It was their first album without the original line-up (thanks to Reed's departure). But before the album hit, Rancid launched a joint U.S. tour with Rise Against. "This tour is the face of Punk today," said Rise Against's Tim McIlrath.
1994 Let's Go
1995 ...And Out Come the Wolves
1998 Life Won't Wait
2008 B Sides and C Sides
2009 Let The Dominoes Fall
Favorable comparisons with The Clash have appeared throughout Rancid's career, though the approach is far more frantic and self-referential. Rancid's drawing card is their ability to "amp it up and crank it out" without fail. Their self-titled debut and follow-up "Let's Go" show Rancid at the peak of their powers. The debut has "Detroit" which Rocks hard and even manages to incorporate solid backing vocals while "Rat's In The Hallway" kicks it all the way out riding breathless vocals. With the title track, "Nihilism," "Side Kick" and closing track "Motorcycle Ride" "Let's Go" is a high speed adventure down Rock's mean streets.
"... And The Wolves Came Out" and "Life Won't Wait" are also excellent albums as Rancid extends their reach. However, in total these albums don't pack the manic drive of their predecessors. "Indestructible" shows the group returning to their original sound with the speed Rocking title track and the mythic "Spirit Of '87." The album also features "Fall Back Down" which is one of the catchiest and hook-driven songs Rancid has ever recorded.
"Let The Dominoes Fall" is a potent shot. "East Bay Night" kicks off the set with a Punk swagger. "Last One To Die" tells Rancid's own defiant survival story ("We got it right, you got wrong") and " Skull City" is just about unhinged. Then there's an enticing taste of Ska on the organ drenched "Liberty And Freedom."
Thematically, songs support the troops ("The Bravest Kids") without endorsing the wars they are fighting in.
What's interesting is that many of the full-blown Punk masterpieces on "Let The Dominoes Fall" also have an acoustic version. That these "unplugged" cuts still have teeth is impressive. Even so, the band's spot-on when going full throttle at an ear-blasting volume.