by John Franck
First off, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Believe the hype. Rancid’s the real deal. As the incredibly influential Operation Ivy (which preceded Rancid), these guys ruled the now legendary Gilman Street punk scene. Signed to Epitaph in ’92, Mr. Gurewitz released Rancid’s self-titled debut, followed in ’94 by Let’s Go.
Then Green Day exploded. Cue the bidding war. From that point forward, everyone’s heard the story: Rancid almost signed a million-dollar record deal; it almost broke huge and almost gave friends Offspring (the punk rock equivalent of Boston) a run for their money. Almost.
That’s old news.
Six years later, Rancid’s successfully completed a tour of duty. More important still, the band’s still making good records. Rancid is another exemplary case in point.
Clash-like tendencies aside, Rancid is part Specials, part Marley and part GBH. Loved by a new generation of punkers (most of whom have never heard any of the bands that paved the way for Tim Armstrong and friends), Rancid has managed to survive on sheer determination. Whatever it may lack in imagination, it more than makes up for in passion and controlled recklessness.
The sprawling, let’s throw-in-the-kitchen-sink mantra of Life Won’t Wait is no longer. Instead, the dudes pick up where Let’s Go and their debut album left off. Lots of quick two-minute songs. Twenty-two to be exact. Tim Armstrong’s (ever-deteriorating) trademark howl is in fine form, leading the call to arms. Gone are the standout radio killers from Out Come the Wolves. There’s no “Ruby Soho,” “Old Friend” or even “Roots Radical” on this 39-minute opus. Not to say that Rancid isn’t full of excellent cuts. It is. “Let Me Go,” “Antennas,” “Rattlesnake” and the infectious “Radio Havana” are all classic Rancid. Where Rancid could have gone all major 64-track production on us, the production veered to the left and threw it away. That, dear friends, is punk rock in itself.