Nothing exudes the holiday spirit quite like a new Rancid album — this year’s perfect stocking stuffer.
“…Honor Is All We Know” marks the punk rock band’s eighth studio album and its first release since 2009. Punk veteran Tim Armstrong continues to lead Rancid head-on into the fire pit with his unmistakable, gritty vocals and anarchistic, yet upbeat, agenda. Along with longtime bandmate Matt Freeman (bass, vocals), Lars Frederiksen (guitar, vocals) and Branden Steineckert (drums), Armstrong finds a sweet spot between staying true to his punk roots while pushing the tight-fisted genre into the future.
The album opens with a familiar frenzied pace on “Back Where I Belong,” marking the band’s valiant return after five years between recordings. This is a no-frills announcement and a reason for listeners to perk up and pay attention. “Raise Your Fist” follows in all of its anti-authority glory. Chock-full of enough “Oi Oi Oi” chants to rally the masses, this 3-minute track is quintessential Rancid retaliation.
With reminiscing lyrics and a familiar Armstrong tempo, “Collision Course” harkens back to Rancid’s “…And Out Come the Wolves” days, when American punk rock found itself on mainstream music’s frontline. “Evil’s My Friend” brings in that reggae-ska flavor that has peppered Rancid’s sound over the decades, making for a perfect skanking song.
On the title track, Frederiksen and Freeman join Armstrong on lead vocal. This is initially distracting, but speaks volumes of the band’s message of brotherhood and unity. “A Power Inside” is the perfect follow-up to the title track, continuing the positivity of union and inner-strength no matter the cards life has dealt.
“In The Streets” is a punk rock “Freaks Come Out at Night,” chronicling the happenings of late-night street corner huggers. On “Face Up,” Armstrong gives thanks to another day in the struggle after surviving a bar fight. Though tapping out after just 1:35 minutes, this short track still manages to translate vivid imagery and gratefulness to the listener.
The drum-heavy “Already Dead” is a hell-raiser, made for flashes of leather and spikes in a mosh pit full of fast flying elbows and bloody noses. The devilish “Diabolical” speaks to the evil tug-of-war that violence pulls out of the human race. On “Malfunction,” Armstrong and Frederiksen trade off verses smoothly. While the track stays in line lyrically, the drum and guitar arrangement feels almost like a Rolling Stones tune—a little more rock than punk, but a well-received deviation from the norm.
“Now We’re Through With You” calls out the disloyal and maintains the band’s focus on doing right by each other because forgiveness is not an option. “Everybody’s Sufferin’” brings in more surfer-ska and stands out among the other tracks with organ-tones and a slower pace. The album closes with a similar vengeance and fever as it opened on “Grave Digger.” Another track shared by Armstrong and Frederiksen, “Grave Digger” keeps fans in a bit of a purgatory, greedily wanting more. Fortunately for fans, there is a deluxe iTunes version of the album that features an additional three songs.
Collectively, “…Honor Is All We Know” falls in line with typical punk rock albums in that it clocks in at just under 33 minutes. For those who lack the attention span to listen much longer, it is a perfect departure from the real world in about the time it may take to drive to work.
While lyrical intricacies have never been Rancid’s strong suit, the simplicity in message and arrangement continue to serve as a solid backbone on which to build. Despite the fact that Rancid peaked in the mid-90s, the band continues to deliver music with a fresh sound that appeals to the old underground fans as well as young punk rockers who are just discovering the boisterous genre.
As long as Armstrong is at the mic, punk rock will have a distinct voice that will perpetuate a message of unity amidst the defiance. “…Honor Is All We Know” succeeds in this light, and proves that Armstrong and his crew show no signs of backing down from what they came to do—speak loud and proud with a fist in the air and a fight in their hearts.