In a 1990’s punk rock boom sometimes beloved for its fearlessness, and at times ridiculed for its pragmatism, no other band was as successful, while straying as little from the genre’s classic vision as Rancid.
While casual rock fans are likely to have heard of the name, what with radio hits and MTV videos to their credit, it is the band’s devoted following that have kept them playing big stages until the present day. Here are five of the best, somewhat underrated, songs by Rancid.
I Wanna Riot (1994 – Punk-O-Rama compilation)
By 1994 Rancid were already part of punk folklore, with two albums under their belts and a starring role in the Gillman St. scene. I wanna riot finds the band at their enthusiastic, righteous best, creating a protest song that bops, bounces and begs for repeated listens. Remembering Rancid’s early music and considering the prevailing rock sound favored by radio stations, it’s no wonder the mainstream would soon come calling.
Journey to the End of the East Bay (1995 – …And out come the wolves)
The name of the name album itself is a pun on the major record labels’ interest the band knew it couldn’t dodge for long. But while other artists saw themselves having to tailor their sound to suit commercial success, Rancid merely plowed ahead with their initial direction. The album was to produce numerous hit singles and fan favorites. But it’s Journey to the End of the East Bay that shows that, just like predecessors the Clash, this California band could not only rock, but had plenty of soul.
Crane fist (1998 – Life won’t wait)
There was little Rancid had to fear by 1998. Their reputation was by now firmly established and the band had no reason shy away from embracing contrasting stylistic elements from rock, ska, blues and rap. Crane fist is a slow dub about a life of crime and plays out like the opening credits of a modern film noir. The band was taking risks and finding balance between fun and solemnity.
Django (2003 – Indestructible)
The same as their punk rock heroes, Rancid are a fighting bunch. This 2003 release sees them kick back against misfortune, changing trends and the band’s own legacy, with a clear intention of once more proving themselves. More than anything on the album, perhaps, Django shows just how well Tim Armstrong and the rest of the band had learnt to mix styles in order to accommodate their own vision. Django is a spaghetti western, informed with drug tales, moved by a steady punk/ska beat.
Evil’s my friend (2014 – … Honor is all we know)
Rancid had proven to be the band that not had refused to pack it in when times got times and expectation weighed heavily, but always could be depended on for their best. Evil is my friend is classic Rancid, fun, volatile and unapologetically infectious, qualities that may sound frivolous, but that have had entire rock legacies built on.
Rancid had it right from the very beginning, following their vision, honing their skills and delivering songs leftfield enough to keep undesirable trespassers away and, just like the Clash or the New York Dolls, to inspire new bands to write their own rock n’ roll.