To preface this whole review, I must admit that I come to this record as something of a casual Rancid listener. I liked Indestructible and Life Won’t Wait well enough but haven’t really dived headlong into them like some. I got a huge kick out of Operation Ivy’s Energy compilation which you would have thought would mean I’d sign up straight away for the Rancid train no questions asked, but their more ska-like moments tended to leave me cold, if I’m perfectly candid.
So it was with trepidation that I pressed play on Troublemaker, only to promptly have my ears blown off by the ferocious opener ‘Track Fast’. The band sounds solid and focused, led as always by the idiosyncratic slurs of Tim Armstrong, who increasingly resembles and sounds like a punk rock Seasick Steve with perhaps a little of Leatherface’s Frankie Stubbs albeit with a frankly ridiculous spider’s web tattoo adorning his shaven dome.
On the whole, things tend to lean towards the classic, earlier period sound of the band, which isn’t a bad thing; “Telegraph Avenue” alternates between a pummelling chorus and a jauntily strummed acoustic for its verses, which works better than it has any right to. Furiously angry machine-gun palm mutes are the order of the day, served up capably and frequently by Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen, while Matt Freeman’s basslines leap and bound with their customary precision.
There is a jump back into uptempo ska with “Where I’m Going”, where Armstrong and Frederiksen tag team their vocal lines inbetween the skanking guitar lines and burbling organ. While “Buddy” even manages to use an accordion to counterpoint the punk rocking powerchords without it sounding like total crap; in fact it actually slides in amongst the noise rather well.
Often I’ve felt with Rancid albums that, while frequently overlong, there’s usually more than enough really great stuff to make the odd mis-step seem insignificant. It’s fortunately the case here; cuts like “Farewell Lola Blue”, the killer Clash-esque “I Kept A Promise”, the hardcore ragers “This Is Not The End” and “Make It Out Alive” make up for the plodding “Bovver Rock And Roll” or the borderline atonal “All American Neighborhood”.
All in all, there’s a lot to enjoy here for more casual fans and veterans alike; it’s just a solid, well-executed album from a deservedly legendary punk band. If that sounds like it’s up your street, you’d do well to pick it up.
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This review was written by Omar Ramlugon.