Friday, 23 January 2015

Classic Album: ...And Out Come The Wolves by Rancid

Something is happening this year that makes me feel really really old. Rancids classic album And Out Come The Wolves turns twenty years old in August. That’s right; you read correctly And Out Come The Wolves is twenty years old! I decided to give this classic album to see how it stands up to today’s punk rock world.

First off, a bit of history. After 1994 when punk rock blew up in the United States after Green Day released Dookie major record labels clambered to sign the very best of the talent emerging in the scene. After the success of 1994s Let’s Go Rancid were courted by many major labels including Madonna’s Maverick Records but the band decided to stick with Brett Gurewitz’s Epitaph Records to release their next album And Out Come The Wolves. Produced by the late great Jerry Finn Wolves has sold over one million copies in the USA alone, an amazing achievement from an independent punk rock band.

And Out Come The Wolves starts out with the classic Maxwell Murder. This song really showcases why Matt Freeman is frequently mentioned when people talk about who the best bass player in the world is. For me it is Matt Freeman, his bass carries the melody of the whole song as Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen share vocal duties on the opening song. On The 11th Hour Rancid slow things down a bit and channel The Clash, who were big influences for them. The song itself is about realising that you have the power to take control of your life. Classic Rancid gang vocals sing the chorus which goes “Do You Know Where The Power Lies? And Who Pulls The Strings? Do You Know Where The Power Lies? It Starts And Ends With You.” The first of Rancids three hit singles from the album, which all received heavy airplay on MTV and radio stations, was Roots Radicals. This song is an ode to roots reggae the band grew up listening to. A firm favourite and Rancid gigs, the beginning of the song where Lars sings “Took The 60 Out Of Downtown Campbell” gets everyone excited for this classic Rancid track. The line “Give ‘Em The Boot also became the title for a popular series of compilations released on Tim Armstrong’s Hellcat Records. Time Bomb is another of the singles released from this album. Here Rancid go down the ska root of Tim and Matts former band, the legendary Operation Ivy. The fifth song Olympia Wa. returns to a more punk rock sound. Tim is in story telling mode on this song as he sings about nothing going his way and wanting to return home. This is quite a restrained song until the massive gang vocalled chorus at the end of the track.

The sixth track is another punk rock number in similar vein of The Clash. It begins with Tim singing with Lars filling in with harmonies, this gives the feeling that these guys are having a conversation throughout the song. Lars takes lead vocal duties at times throughout the song and adds some real venom to the proceedings, throw in some Matt Freeman bass lines towards the end and you’ve got one of Rancids most underrated songs in my opinion. Junkie Man is one of the more wordie songs on And Out Come The Wolves. It’s about reaching out to a drug addict and finding out what’s wrong with him. Jim Carroll who was an American author, poet, autobiographer and musician provides vocals on the breakdown of the song, reading a passage from his autobiography The Basketball Diaires. The album title comes from some words during his passage. Lars takes lead vocal duties on the eighth song, Listed MIA and carries the melodies on the verse excellently. The third single released from Wolves was Ruby Soho, probably Rancid’s most popular song. This song falls on the poppier side of punk and has a massively catchy chorus. Tim is back in storyteller mode throughout the verses, weaving a tale of a bad break up between two lovers. There is a fantastic guitar solo towards the end that leads to a big final chorus, with some great harmonies from Lars. Track ten, Daly City Train returns to a ska sound. In a song that will get you skanking in no time at all, Tim sings about a man who despite all of lifes hardships he always managed to stay himself. I love the line in the chorus “When He Rolled The Dice He Never Thought Twice, Never Thought Twice About Being Him.”

Journey To The End Of The East Bay is my favourite Rancid song. Starting out with another brilliant Matt Freeman bass solo and some soft cymbals courtesy of Brett Reed, eventually Tim and Lars guitars join in to start this party. Journey is an autobiographical song about Operation Ivy. For those who don’t know (shame on you) Operation Ivy were a band who were around from 1987 to 1989 featuring Tim and Matt as members. They are credited as being critical to the scene around 924 Gilman Street where bands such as Green Day emerged from. Journey sums up what Rancid are all about, brotherhood and sticking with your friends no matter what. She’s Automatic is a love song. Considering Rancid give the image of being tough guys this song features some of the sweetest lyrics. “The Situation Was Tricky, I Was Feeling So Down, The Bass And The Drums, The Music So Loud, She Asked Me If I Would Stand By Her Side, Like Glue That I Would Till The End Of The Night” are just some of the awesome lyrics contained in the song. Old Friend is a ska punk song about heartbreak. Matt’s bass player really stands out again on this track. It’s one of the slowest on the album but definitely has its place. Disorder and Disarray sees Rancid go down the path of some street punk. It’s a fun, simple song with a huge chorus for everyone to get involved with. Track fifteen At The Wars End starts out slowly with just a guitar and one of Lars more heartfelt vocals. This song is about being a young punk rocker, struggling to fit in and your parents trying to push you in a direction that you don’t want to go, something most of us could probably relate to at one point in our lives.

You Don’t Care Nothin’ starts out with a great drum roll from Brett Reed, I love a good drum roll, really makes a song feel like it’s leading up to something big. Tim and Lars share the vocals on this track. I really enjoy when bands have more than one singer, it makes a song feel more inclusive when multiple people join in rather than just having one solitary voice. Track seventeen – As Wicked was the first Rancid song I ever heard and is what made me fall in love with the band. This song really showcases Tim’s trademark grumbling vocal style on the verses before everyone joins in for a massive chorus. It’s the sort of chorus that will make you put an arm round a stranger in a pit and sing as loud as possible. The penultimate song on And Out Come The Wolves is called Avenues And Alleyways. This is some first class street punk that rumbles along nicely without ever really picking up pace or slowing down. Again the dual vocals or Lars and Time Carry the melody and we are treated to yet another gang vocal chorus. And Out Come The Wolves finishes like and album should do, with a massive sing along complete with na na nas. The Way I Feel brings an end to the album nicely as for one final time the dual vocals bring the party home. Everyone gets to show their immense musical ability on the song, which I think is another underrated Rancid classic.

If you were listen to And Out Come The Wolves and Rancids 2014 album Honor Is All We Know (reviewed here) you would never know there are nineteen years between them. Rancid have always been fantastic songwriters and musicians and have a connection that few bands will ever match. That’s a big reason why they have been so successful for so long, the brotherhood that keeps them and their fans together. And Out Come The Wolves is timeless, I suspect I’ll still be listening in another twenty years and  I will still enjoy it as much as ever.

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