September 11, 2003

Rancid: Not So Indestructible

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Indestructible, the sixth album from Bay Area punk mainstays Rancid, is more of the same hard-driving punk that has made the group one of the leaders of the neo-punk movement. Unfortunately, the band’s latest effort seems to lack the edge that first made me a fan. Instead, Indestructible sounds more like the pop-punk of AFI and other artists likely to be found on MTV. Rather than take any sort of new direction, the group contents itself with simply softening their sound slightly and relying more than ever on their hooks and less on the stellar instrumentation that had separated them from their less talented contemporaries.

Singer Tim Armstrong sounds increasingly angry on some tracks, and then unexplainably serene on others. The song “Arrested in Shanghai” is a misguided attempt at combining the band’s leftist political views with an expansion of their sound, and it fails miserably. Sadly, this song is one of the few where the group deviates from the cookie-cutter mold of a typical punk song. The rapid-fire bass lines of Matt Freeman, the group’s biggest talent, are overshadowed by the album’s attempt to sound radio-friendly. At their best, Rancid combine pounding drums, amazing bass and guitar, and righteous political outrage in their albums, such as the brilliant … And Then Came the Wolves. Indestructible sounds like a toned down version of a band that might be showing some premature signs of age, the ultimate death knell for a punk group.

On the positive side, fans of the group will still appreciate their ability to make a good punk song, such as album highlights “Fall Back

Down” and “Tropical London.” The group chose wisely to veer away from the ska sound they once favored and the influence of The Clash is evident in most of the album’s better tracks. Armstrong continues to sound stranger and less intelligible on every album, which works well on the harder songs but is exposed as a shortcoming whenever they decide to slow it down. His singing is still vastly superior to that of guitarist Lars Frederickson, and the album loses its momentum whenever Frederickson picks up the mic. The album’s closing track, “Otherside” is exceptional ode to Frederickson’s late brother that manages to convey intense sorrow in under two minutes of music.

While Rancid has probably taken a step back with this album, that still leaves them a couple steps ahead of the rest of the punk crowd.

In short, fans of the group should definitely pick up this release, but

uninitiated listeners would be better off starting with one of their excellent mid-’90s efforts first.

Archived article by Gautham Nagesh