What makes Rancid so unique and separates them from all of the other punk revival bands of the past decade is that wonderfully sentimental and unpunk streak that is evident even when they’re rocking their hardest. It’s that quality that allows them to wear mohawks and tattoos and sing lines like “I’m not looking for a fight now / And I don’t care who’s wrong or right now / So release the dove into flight now” without even a hint of irony.
Due in no small part to a pair of tragic events, guitarist/singer Tim Armstrong’s painful divorce and the death of punk legend Joe Strummer, Rancid’s emotional side is more evident than ever on Indestructible, the band’s sixth record. It manifests itself most clearly in Armstrong’s slurred yet affecting vocals as he pays tribute to his hero: “And I keep listening to the great Joe Strummer / ‘Cause through music we can live forever.”
Consequently, Indestructible is Rancid’s most varied work to date, running the gamut from raucous punk on “Django” and “Travis Bickle” to serene balladry on “Arrested in Shanghai.” Written in the Rancid tradition of up-with-people anthems, “Start Now” and “Stand Your Ground” rock happily and positively. Lead single “Fall Back Down” marks a return to the hooky, accessible style that made “Ruby Soho” a hit eight years ago. Additionally, elements of Tim Armstrong’s hardcore punk/hip-hop side project, the Transplants, seep in when vocalist Rob Aston drops in for some white-boy gangsta rap on “Red Hot Moon.”
Six records and more than 10 years together have developed a Lennon-McCartney-style relationship between Armstrong and fellow guitarist/singer Lars Frederiksen. Egos are checked, and a sense of mutual respect emanates as they share songwriting, guitar and vocal duties.
While still maintaining punk rock’s trademark youthful exuberance, Rancid show an emotional maturity that a decade in the business has given them. Not only are they unafraid to show their earnest side from time to time, they do it proudly. Looking both sentimental and hip is a tough thing to do, but Rancid pull it off brilliantly.