Rancid’s latest album …Honor Is All We Know shoots out of the gates with the grand declaration “I’m back where I belong/I’ve been gone way too long/now I’m back where I belong” and in Rancid’s case, truer words have never been spoken. It’s been over five years since their last LP, the somewhat disappointing Let the Dominoes Fall and from the sound of the opening cut, the band is out for blood. And really, they ought to be. Rancid has been around for over 20 years now and the first decade of their existence saw the band release six astonishing full lengths, where the band has only manged two LP’s in the past ten years. Granted, there have been side projects and tours, but very little in the way of new music until now. But how does the new material stack up?
Perhaps taking time off served the band well. The aforementioned “I’m Back Where I Belong” is a raucous beginning to the album which rarely looses energy throughout its 14 tracks. All the hallmarks of the classic Rancid sound are intact, from the blustery streetpunk of tracks “Raise Your Fist” and “Now We’re Through With You” to the dancehall tinged ska of “Everybody’s Sufferin’.” For the casual fan, or even for new converts to the Rancid camp, these songs serve the status quo. They’ll make you wanna sing, dance and fight, like a good majority of the bands back catalog, but that’s about it. A good chunk of …Honor Is All We Know fits this mold, staying in step with the ska-tinged street punk that the band is known for. Honestly, if songs like these were all that comprised …Honor, it would be a success. Maybe a little disappointing, but still a success.
But …Honor Is All We Know has a few surprises in store for listeners. One such example is the boisterous “Evil’s My Friend,” a hammond drenched barn-burner replete with call and response vocals and a melody guaranteed to lodge itself in your head for days on end. It’s certainly one of the most energetic songs the band has released in the past decade and harkens back to some of their classic songs from the mid-nineties. Another standout is the folk-infused “Already Dead” which sounds like a cross between Social Distortion and Johnny Cash. But it’s not a tale of redemption or longing like you may expect from those two, instead, Lars sings “I’m the bastard son of Christ/and I’ll see you all in hell.” Lyrically and musically, it’s fucking dark and may be one of the heaviest things the band has ever written.
But as great as some of the tracks on …Honor are, the real highlight of the set isn’t until the eleventh song “Malfunction.” With it’s bouncy percussion and sing-a-long chorus, it feels like a long lost Rolling Stones track that the boys stumbled upon and roughed up a little bit. It’s an awesome piece of songwriting and a vivid reminder that Rancid, when on top of their game, are one of the most formidable and cohesive punk rock units to ever exist.
Considering that Rancid has been largely inactive (at least in the studio) for the better part of ten years, it’s amazing how well …Honor Is All We Know came out. Sure, there’s a fistful of songs that don’t really challenge listeners and that’s alright. Those songs are still a good bit of fun to listen to. As Primus, another bay-area favorite, has noted “they can’t all be zingers” and …Honor follows suit. And even though the entire album won’t floor anyone, there is still enough creative juice and passion behind Rancid’s songs to keep the band going strong. Who knows, maybe even for another 20 years.