What do Rancid albums and Star Trek films have in common?
They both alternate in quality, with all the odd-numbered ones being a little off. Rancid s/t, mostly, is the band just finding their sound, Rancid V, is, well, Rancid trying to be the hardcore band they’re patently not, and …And Out Come The Wolves, while generally considered their best, personally seems to me to be the poor relation of its follow-up. Whereas Let’s Go, Life Won’t Wait and Indestructible are all excellent albums in their own different ways. Disagree with me, by all means, but I’ll have to call you a Trekkie for it.
Extending and bending the analogy a little further, let’s discuss the Rancid ‘look’.
Studded leather, obtrusively altered facial and cranial appearances, big boots and heavy clothing – all in the circumstances of belligerent, heavily masculine and tribalistic attitudes of bravado. Sound like Klingons to you? Have a look:
You’ll notice the squeal of guitar feedback at the start of the song (the first on the record) just to let you know this isn’t a Green Day album. From there on in, it’s a reassuring blast of traditional punk anarchy…
"Nihilistic feelings moving/If you try really hard you’ll see right through them/Nihilism..."
To be serious, this is a really good album. It is 23 very catchy songs, noisy, destructive and full of hooks – all propelled by the very notable bass lines of Matt Freeman. Loud and energetic, with more than a veneer of pop-punk – Billie Joe Armstrong was close to becoming Rancid’s second guitarist, and has writing credits on one of the album’s best songs, ‘Radio’. It’s also quite angry, with a strong element of social realism in the lyrics, with songs like ‘St. Mary’ and ‘Harry Bridges’, or ‘Dope Sick Girl’ and ‘Side Kick’.
Let’s Go can be favourably compared to, say, the first Clash album, but it’s also a musical statement of its own time, blending East Bay punk-pop with the sounds of third-wave ska, fourth-generation punk rock and even 80’s hardcore – this is a Californian album, after all – and all with the ‘pop sensibility’ which made them stars. Maybe it can even be compared to the Ramones – after all, it is called ‘Let’s Go’, echoing (perhaps with a more political overtone) the cry to exuberance of that particular song. Anyway, Rancid is Rancid, love ‘em or like ‘em.
So here’s another of the best songs on the album ‘Salvation’, a slightly slower-tempo Armstrong vehicle (Lars is mostly in the chorus) about down-and-outs, urban poverty, and that great punk stalwart, lyrics with the word ‘baby’ in them:
"Come on baby won’t you show me what you got/I want your salvation"
(It might be obvious, but I don’t actually know anything about either street punk or Star Trek. Just so you know.)