When Let The Dominos Fall came out, I have to admit I was disappointed by it. Rancid hadn’t released a record in six years and anticipation for new material was high. But I don’t think that album was the triumphant return we were waiting for. It sounded like the band, for the first time in their impressive career, was treading water. They sounded tired. Tim in particular sounded weary. His delivery was often somewhere between a sigh and shrug. There was nothing grabbing about the music and the production sounded a little flat.
But then the members went off and did their own things. Tim Armstrong became his alter ego Tim Timebomb and released literally hundreds of songs under the title Tim Timebomb & Friends. When he wasn’t doing that he was working on the Transplants third record. Lars Frederiksen fully embraced his Oi! roots and put much of his effort into his classic era street punk band The Old Firm Casuals. Matt Freeman got busy for a while with his psychobilly project Devil’s Brigade. And Branden Steineckert seemed to emerge himself in his Utah soccer league.
And maybe that’s what it took. Maybe the boys needed to go off and do their own thing because, judging from the breath of fresh punk rock air that is Honor Is All We Know, the boys are ‘back where they belong’ and sounding more energized and on point than they have in years.
Honor Is All We Know kind of came out of nowhere. There had been rumblings of a new Rancid record for years, but no confirmations or teasers from the studio or possible release dates. Just rumour. Then all of a sudden we had a track list, and cover art, and a release date just weeks away. Then, in a marketing idea that was both smart and exciting, we had a video. The video featured the band playing three new jams off the album: ‘Collision Course’, an absolute rip roaring punk rock freight train that sounds like Rancid (2000); ‘Evil’s My Friend’, a hyper ska ripper with a very Out Come The Wolves-esque guitar line and a haunting and cool organ break; and ‘Honor Is All We Know’; a Tim Timebomb song that sounds the same as the original, but as rerecord by Rancid, meaning more tight, sharp and exciting. With those three barn stormers leading the way, Honor Is All We Know could now be firmly placed within the ‘maximum hype’ category.
And the rest of the record does not disappoint. It’s filled with Rancid’s street spun tales of friends, family and coming up in the East Bay on tracks like ‘In The Streets’ and ‘Now We’re Through With You’. But there are also rave up’s like ‘Raise Your Fist’, ’A Power Inside’ and the cool breeze ska swing of ‘Everybody’s Sufferin’, which are rebellion focused calls to action.
The dark dance bop of ‘Already Dead’ and ‘Grave Digger’ feature horror punk at its finest.
While ‘Back Where I Belong’ is the record’s most obvious and straightforward track, with a chorus of “I’ve been gone way too long and I’m back where I belong.” Indeed.
Honor Is All We Know just feels right. It feels like the Rancid we know and love. And listening to it, you’re reminded why Rancid has been one of the biggest and most influential punk bands on the planet since the mid-90’s. The music is sharp and heavy, fast and exciting. Tim and Lars sound like they’re having the time of their lives. Matty and Branden are in fine form. And punk isn’t dead. The last gang in town is back and they sound better than ever.