If there were such a thing as pillars of the Punk community then Rancid would be held aloft with very few others, blazing a trail of tunes and statements since 1991. They may create many a discussion around their entitlement to this accolade, as I have witnessed on many a forum where Punks prefer to pull the scene apart than recognise its strength in diversity. If you described Rancid’s history of achievements rather than naming them, I’m sure there would be a surge of admiration and adulation that would not be blinkered by the success of the band. Emerging from the remains of Operation Ivy, a band who have also left an imprint on the history of Punk, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman formed the band who have changed very little in terms of line up over the years.
With eight studio albums behind them they have created a sound that is very hard to tie down, this is mostly down to the unbelievable talent of Mr Armstrong, who I personally feel could get a tune from the tongue of an old DM Boot, with a chorus to back it up. Although very much a Punk band Rancid’s more popular back catalogue is weaved within Ska/Punk symphonies, this gave them their most successful period releasing And Out Come The Wolves which sold over a million copies in the USA alone. As with all Rancid albums Trouble Maker is highly anticipated to have something for everyone with a few classics always bursting out, produced again by Bad Religion’s Brett Gurewitz it is their first album since Honour Is All We Know in 2014.
Trouble Maker was never going to be an album that sounds OK, love them or hate them Rancid put all they have into their music with a sense of pride in what they produce and we saw this in the few tracks let loose before the albums launch. The first 58 secs shoots a hail of guitar fuelled bullets around your speakers with Track Fast, which lays a marker down saying here we are let’s go! Its followed by 2 of the early released tracks Ghost of a Chance and Telegraph Avenue where there is more melody attached to Tim’s famously slurred vocal’s. Telegraph Avenue in particular having a memorable guitar riff that buries its way through the Cerebral Cortex, to linger and reemerge unexpectedly throughout the week. Moving on I thought there were shades and highlights from previous albums coming through in a couple of songs, but I came to the conclusion that this is just Rancid’s own distinctive sound coming through on particular tracks because it’s not always recognisable throughout their albums because of the diversity in their music. Another Ska influenced beat now has your knees bouncing an your head nodding with Where I’m Going, nostalgia run’s high with memories of a Two Tone organ and snare drum set against Lars Frederiksen’s husky tones which only confirms that no one does this better. Farewell Lola Blue floods your ears with hormones and builds you up from a quiet intro, delivering a melodic chorus that Tim has a talent for discovering. If he was part of the mainstream media attention then he would have been heralded along with the likes of Bruce Springsteen with the hooks, choruses and lyrics he has unearthed over the years. Another change of direction where a hat is tipped to the glam bands of the 70s, Bovver Rock and Roll recreates a back beat that has a distinct memory of 70s glam bands bashing away on the stage with platform shoes to a rousing chorus and fists punching the glitter filled air. Talking of nostalgia Say Goodbye to Our Heroes is a reference to the older punk band still slogging it out on the tours, or gone but not forgotten by the bands that came after them. Rancid are now the ones being held aloft as examples and inspiration among the fledgling blister fingered guitarists and mirror fixated singers practising in their rooms, but reaching the standards of this band will take more than a sneer and a low slung fret board to make a place in history.
Trouble Maker may be the ninth studio album from Rancid but there is certainly no let-up in the drive and determination, this is another fine album that explodes with power passion and melody throughout. Most Punk bands of today would love to have even have one Rancid album they could call their own, instead of trotting out something that is at best ordinary . Imitation or complacency has never been a label thrown at Rancid, unlike other Punk bands they continue to create and explore with a Punk ethos of doing it their own way, being Trouble Makers despite the snippers within and all around.