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Rancid - Trouble Maker (Album Review)

Wednesday, 14 June 2017 Written by Huw Baines

In the years between the release of Rancid’s ‘Let’s Go’ in 1994 and the unveiling of their self-titled fifth album in 2000, punk changed. The Bay Area band were right at the heart of the genre’s explosion back into the mainstream, with the classic ‘...And Out Come The Wolves’ going platinum alongside monster releases from Green Day and the Offspring.

Rancid would skip the superstar status enjoyed by some of their peers, though. With the experimental ‘Life Won’t Wait’ and near feral ‘Rancid’, they went ahead and pushed to the outer reaches of their sound before the decade was out. Since that point, each new record has been an exercise in reinterpretation. And results have been mixed.

‘Trouble Maker’, their ninth LP, has many of the strengths of its predecessor, the patchy ‘...Honor is All We Know’, and also the accompanying weaknesses.

It’s likely that fans will never tire of hearing Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen yelling over something fast and furious, but even their most ardent backers will find fault in a chorus as rote as the one that blights Telegraph Avenue here.

Hewing close to the boisterous tempos that marked ‘Let’s Go’, ‘Trouble Maker’ does largely make up for its lapses with sheer grit and enthusiasm, though.

The title-track-of-sorts, An Intimate Close Up of a Street Punk Trouble Maker, bursts out of the gate, as does the deceptively melodic Ghost of a Chance, while Make It Out Alive is fast, vibrant and fun in a very real way.

It’s also true that nostalgia has a winning hand to play these days. Hearing Armstrong garble a tale of a train journey to San Francisco is just warming enough to elevate Buddy, and it’s difficult to overlook just how good Rancid still sound when accompanied by a Hammond organ and upstrokes on Where I’m Going.

Seventeen songs in 36 minutes also has a familiar, comforting ring to it, but is familiar and comforting really enough to sustain a band like Rancid? Recent history would suggest that it is, but their towering early records will always have words to say to the contrary.

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