For Fans Of
All good things must come to an end, so the old saying goes. Yet sometimes things don’t end when they should. This is equally true of movie franchises (Saw, Star Wars), book series (Harry Potter), video games (Call Of Duty, Assassin’s Creed), and of course, bands (take your fuckin’ pick, really).
Likewise, Rancid have been a band for 26 years now, and in their lengthy and successful career, they’ve now released nine studio albums, with their latest being the newly released ‘Trouble Maker‘. However, those of you reading who were hoping for a mighty fine Rancid album in this decade that can match the solid days of their youth will be left wanting. Just like 2009’s ‘Let The Domino’s Fall‘ and 2014’s ‘…Honour Is All We Know‘, the Cali quartet’s latest is just an overabundance of short, run-of-the-mill melodic punk songs with all the usual ska influences (sans horns) thrown in. Which all culminates in creating a 17-track record that simply fills up their dull song quota nicely but pointlessly.
For vast quantity over actual quality, ‘Trouble Maker‘ is indeed.
I mean, ask yourself this: does our world truly, honest-to-god really, need a new Rancid record in 2017? I can assume that many older, die-hard fans out there will flip me off and say “yes!“, but to those of us without a horse in the race and who have grown oh so tired of their musical formula, the answer should hopefully be a resounding “no!“.
Now, to be fair, I do genuinely respect the hustle of bands like Rancid. As surviving for this long in such an insane, fluctuating industry takes real guts and luck, and strongly adhering to playing the music you love for so long is commendable. Even so, the buck’s gotta stop sometime, and my god, is Rancid’s buck in dire need of stopping.
What makes ‘Trouble Maker’ such a disappointing listen is that its 17-song track listing is not only inconsistent, but the recycled nature of the album creates an inescapable feeling of been-here-done-this-before; both these new songs and the band’s past material. It feels like a record that was made simply because it could be made rather than that it should have been made; as the band’s ninth LP doesn’t display anything of any real merit to offer the listener. Of course, music being written and recorded for the pure sake of it isn’t a smoking gun argument against any particular release. But what is – especially for a punk rock album such as this – is a veteran punk band lacking any sense of passion, bite or edge in their lyrics and music. Which is the delipidated rut that ‘Trouble Maker‘ finds itself in.
This record is simply Rancid as Rancid has done for years now. From the usual ska upstrokes and distorted three chord progressions of Lars Frederiksen; Tim Armstrong’s gruff vocals that are practically devoid of any real range; the fast and driving yet simple and unimaginative drumming of Branden Steineckert; the basic tone and fret-walking of Matt Freeman’s bass playing; the long and overblown length of the album; to the chorus melodies you could probably sing to yourself just by merely looking at the tracklisting. Again, this really is a Rancid record.
The ineffective but suitably titled opener ‘Track Fast‘, the bland “Na-Na-Na” choruses of ‘Telegraph Avenue’, that pathetic guitar lead that closes out ‘Ghost Of A Chance’, the half-assed nature of ‘Molly Make Up Your Mind‘, and the drab sentiments of ‘Beauty Of The Pool Hall‘ and ‘I Kept A Promise‘ are the rule for this album more than the exception. On the other hand, ‘Make It Out Alive’, ‘Farewell Lola Blue‘, ‘I Got Them Blues Again‘, and ‘All American Neighbourhood‘ display solid hints of the band’s classic punk sound cutting through like a vibrant liberty spike, but it’s just not the same, my friends. And I don’t think it ever will be the same again, sadly.
The melodically supportive organ on ‘Where I’m Going’, the piano licks on ‘Bovver Rock And Roll’, and the brash accordion on ‘Buddy’ are small inclusions that help break up the generic punk rock proceedings. However, such simple instrumental additions could never hope to salvage this record nor improve its overall impact. If you’ve heard and loved past records like ‘…And Out Came The Wolves‘, ‘Life Won’t Wait‘ or ‘Indestructible‘ – as I myself have and do – then take note that those older (and better) records will serve your time much better than this new justification for outdated band’s throwing in the fucking towel. I also do see the intent of ending this record with a decent, faster old-school punk called ‘This Is Not The End‘ – informing the world that this old dog won’t lie down for good just yet and that more Rancid tunes will follow in the years to come. But… maybe the end should finally come for Rancid, and it should come doubly fast if records like ‘Trouble Maker‘ are any indication of the quality (or lack thereof) they’ll churn out at this point in their career.
Finally, as for the album’s name, I have to agree with the sentiments of Hysteria Mag’s Tom Hersey, in that it’s a rather misplaced and even cringy title. In Hersey’s recent album review for the fellow Aussie site, he stated that it’s:
“…borderline ridiculous for a band that’s pushing 30 to be marketing themselves as anything remotely close to trouble makers—it doesn’t matter how many face tattoos are in the equation. Rancid are more or less placid, compliant cats at this point, and there’s nothing on Trouble Maker that really challenges that.“
And I fully agree with him on that! But whereas old mate enjoyed this record a hell of a lot more than I ever did – scoring it 8/10 – this album’s ill-conceived name only adds fuel to the fires of my distaste to hear such a subpar record from one of punk rock’s greatest acts. Then again, I suppose that’s the reason that we often label our youth’s as being the “good old days”.
Punk is definitely not dead, but Jesus H. Christ, maybe Rancid as a musical entity should be.
1. Track Fast
2. Ghost Of A Chance
3. Telegraph Avenue
4. An Intimate Close Up Of A Street Punk Trouble Maker
5. Where I’m Going
7. Farewell Lola Blue
8. All American Neighborhood
9. Bovver Rock and Roll
10. Make It Out Alive
11. Molly Make Up Your Mind
12. I Got Them Blues Again
13. Beauty of The Pool Hall
14. Say Goodbye to Our Heroes
15. I Kept A Promise
16. Cold Cold Blood
17. This is Not the End
‘Trouble Maker’ is out now. Stream it below if you can be arsed: