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Rancid: Indestructible



Album: Indestructible
Label: Hellcat

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Lately, Rancid has been more vital in its offshoots than in its central act. With singer-guitarist Tim Armstrong roughing up rock-rap with Transplants, his ex-wife Brody building buzz with the Rancid-approved Distillers, and second singer-guitarist Lars Frederiksen taking impressive solo flights, Rancid itself has seemed a little lost these past five years. Its excellent 1998 album Life Won't Wait added cool new steps to the punk dance of 1995's best-selling ...And Out Come The Wolves, but didn't meet with the same acclaim, and when Rancid retreated to straight-up, hookless hardcore on its eponymous 2000 album, it placated its core constituency while alienating those who preferred eclecticism. Rancid's new Indestructible goes back to softening the band's hard edges with touches of ska, gospel, and rockabilly, but it often lacks the charge of inspired discovery that accompanied its '90s predecessors. Though Armstrong's songwriting has always drawn comparisons to The Clash, his vocals recall The Pogues' Shane MacGowan, and like MacGowan's voice, Armstrong's raspy slur has become somewhat indistinct. Even with Frederiksen and bassist Matt Freeman singing along, positivist anthems like "Fall Back Down" and Indestructible's title track sound oddly mushy. Still, when drummer Brett Reed gets a beat going, and his counterparts start shouting lines like "It's not my time to go! / It's not my time to die!" over a soulful organ line, it's easy to ignore the moment's slightly reheated quality. Even given all the Rancid spin-offs, the current scene simply doesn't contain enough loud, direct, socially aware punk acts willing to rail against something more substantive than poseurs and dry beer kegs. A diminished Rancid is stronger than most, and when it comes roaring back on the spaghetti-Western-inspired "Django," the road-ravers "Memphis" and "Spirit Of '87," and the party-against-oppression sketches "Ivory Coast" and "Stand Your Ground," it can still sound like one of the most important rock bands in America.