Rancid – [Album]

Sunday, 07 June 2009

At this point, it has been six years since last Rancid released an album of all-new material but, as every fan knows, it's not as if the band's members languished in the interim. While a B- and C-sides compilation kept the home franchise alive, singer Tim Armstrong continued working with The Transplants and stretched into musical regions that punk had never touched before as well as proving that a punk could age gracefully but still play to his strengths in his solo career, Matt Freeman accepted bass duties briefly with Social Distortion and guitarist Lars Frederiksen perfected his melodic street punk chops with The Bastards as well as setting the bar a few notches higher for any that would follow him with 2004's Viking album.

Those accomplishments were significant to say the least but, while fanfare for each project was strong, as the hits kept coming and years passed, the future of Rancid was put ever-deeper into question. Sure – Rancid might have been the home base for Armstrong, Freeman and Frederiksen, but even The Ramones left home once, why not the band from the East Bay? The other edge of that sword, however, is that with so many successes logged apart, would it be possible to come back again, and would they want to?

Even as Let The Dominoes Fall kicks off with “East bay Night,” the question still looms. There's no doubt that this is a Rancid record as the guitars hit the ground running and Armstrong's cracked-but-hopeful vocals straddle the line between intimate and anthemic and recall every lost glory but, while some fans might have been expecting a guns-blazing return, Rancid doesn't simply pick up where they left off with Indestructible. Time has passed and lessons have been learned in the six-year interim, and all of that manifests in one way or another in these nineteen tracks.

So what does a band do to knock the rust off the belts of their machine? Stretch a little to warm up of course, but also definitely have a little fun to rediscover the groove and illustrate to fans that this comeback isn't for dollars and only makes sense because they never left – they just got busy with other things.

In that spirit, at no point does Rancid try to rock out some grand statement and even when Armstrong does lob a politically heated or socially aware lyric into the mix (as in “This Place,” “Civilian Ways,” “All The Bravest Kids” and “Liberty And Freedom”), the music swallows them whole and in no way subjugates these proceedings that keep both feet firmly on the street.

That's not to say that Rancid forgets all the other sounds it picked up on the way to this point though. Elements of reggae, Celtic music and the stylistic/production hodgepodge developed by The Transplants and more all creep into the proceedings of Let The Dominoes Fall and seem like a genuine (but more fun than earnest) attempt to bring both the band and their fans back up to speed rather than coming off as scattered. Everyone gets some time up front and the results are always light-hearted; while Armstrong still steals the prize for 'best song' with “I Ain't Worried” and is responsible for all the best reggae and ska performances here, Frederiksen keeps walking with an inspired street punk swagger through “Disconnected” and “New Orleans” and even Freeman swipes the mic for the goofy-punk rave-up “LA River” which is just dumb fun but, in this 'everyone's in' context, carries a fair bit of weight in its inclusion toward the end.

So is Let The Dominoes Fall the single greatest, most satisfying album Rancid has ever released? While many fans will probably threaten me passionately for saying it, the shortest, easiest answer is, “No, it isn't – but it's a respectable return and was a necessary step.” Rancid found itself stuck between a rock and a hard place when they decided to reconvene: trying to pretend that the interim years between Indestructible and Let The Dominoes Fall didn't happen and trying to play to that end would have come off as mawkish and stupid while chucking it all and going in a different direction would have come off as craven and incited a riotous state of revulsion away from the band. Let The Dominoes Fall is the smartest solution because it moves in the right directions honestly and leaves space to do something incredible hereafter now that the circuits have been re-primed.


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“Last One To Die” from Let The Dominoes Fall by Rancid


Let The Dominoes Fall
is out now and available here on Amazon .

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