Rancid, in a world of music that prizes integrity, is the 90s punk band that has kept closest to its original vision. The Tim Armstrong lead group has produced numerous great albums while most frequently operating within a winning formula.
The Californian quartet earnestly love 70s punk-rock but also the sounds compatible with that era. This meant that Rancid could always make ample room for ska, reggae, and even hip-hop. You could notice it in their fashion, sound, and meticulous songwriting work.
I have a great deal of consideration for Rancid. And I’m excited about the new Rancid album, due in 2023, titled “Tomorrow Never Comes.”
With this in mind, today, I’m browsing through their discography, and I’m ranking down their albums from best to worst.
Rancid Albums Ranked
10. “Trouble Maker” (2017)
Tim Armstrong produced a lot of songs with Rancid over a quarter of a century. On “Trouble Maker,” they take a moment to glance back. I and the rest of their fans could understand the need to regroup and reassess.
It’s hard not to get sentimental over such things. But here, it feels like the band wastes too much time reminiscing.
It’s fun to hear the old sound of Rancid, but it has less energy than usual. And, even though, once again, there are 19 songs to choose from, fans will have to dig harder than usual.
There were now plenty of bands making music akin to the band. The excellent compilation of Rancid covers from 2015, titled “Hooligans United a Tribute to Rancid”, had proven this.
Tim “Timebomb” Armstrong delivers the goods with “This is Not the End” and “I Got Them Blues Again.” His songwriting had grown to incorporate even more influences. But, like fellow Armstrong, Green Day‘s Billie Joe, editing has never been a priority.
Still, nostalgia-aside, “Trouble Maker” will feel like an old friend’s words for the many who have stuck around with Rancid on their punk-rock voyage.
9. “Honor Is All We Know” (2014)
With Rancid’s legacy firmly established and the individual band members working on side projects, the band pops in on “Honor Is All We Know” to remind fans that little has changed with the way they see the world or the way the band sounds.
For the most part, this is a good thing. Songs like “Collision Course” and “Back Where I Belong” slide neatly into the band’s punk-centric discography.
Meanwhile, “Evil’s My Friend” and “Everybody’s Sufferin'” are some of the catchiest Rancid singles they’ve delivered in a long time.
“Honor Is All We Know” won’t surprise listeners, but it makes a case that Rancid’s retro-punk sound and aesthetic were never contrived.
8. “Life Won’t Wait” (1998)
When feeling that they need to prove themselves, Rancid tend to push the throttle. They do that on “Life Won’t Wait,” and the results are powerful.
For the most part, the 22-strong collection focuses on fast-paced punk. But there are subtle changes to their sound as well. The excellent “Crane Fist” features elements of hip-hop and ska. “Wrongful Suspicion” is almost a rebel-country song.
Songs like “Bloodclot,” “The Wolf,” or “Life Won’t Wait” offer more familiar thrills as guitarist Lars Frederiksen really comes into his own. He contributes to the writing of seven songs here, and his Epiphone guitar leads ring out on many of the album’s finest tracks.
Rancid had been given more fame than they had anticipated. They’d banked on songwriting consistency as a strategy to maintain their reputation. They’d chosen wisely.
7. “Let the Dominoes Fall” (2009)
Rancid had initially made it on a mix of high-energy and classic punk-rock sounds. Returning to record an album after over six years, they rely on similar tactics for “Let the Dominoes Fall.”
Much of that well-needed energy arrives courtesy of the new drummer, Branden Steineckert, who replaced Brent Reed.
More than on any other record, “Let the Dominoes Fall” sounds like a group effort. Frederiksen and Freeman sing on several tracks, and all songwriting credits are split between the band members. Meanwhile, the album was released by Armstrong’s own Epitaph Records, a label for old punk buddies and rock upstarts.
Album opener “East Bay Night” and The Specials-influenced “I Ain’t Worried” are particular highlights.
Once more, however, the 19-song collection will offer plenty of thrills for those ready to invest their focus.
6. “Tomorrow Never Comes” (2023)
Tim Armstrong seems to know just how disappointing it is to see an old friend who’s changed for the worse. That’s why “Tomorrow Never Comes” attempts to change nothing about Rancid’s classic punk-rock sound, just inject more energy than usual.
Nobody can claim it’s easy! Any rock show that forces the musicians to jump around and play for a couple of hours every night will eventually get exhausting.
Armstrong knows that Rancid’s fans are expecting from “Tomorrow Never Comes” the kind of songs to power that kind of rock show. And he complies.
The good news is that Armstrong’s songwriting ability has grown over the years. The Tim Timebomb project, for example, acts as an appreciation society for classic songwriting.
The other good news is that the quartet has a renewed sense of purpose. “Tomorrow Never Comes” is designed as a battle cry.
“Devil in Disguise” brings Arsmstrong’s gruff, worn vocals to the blues roots he has come to love. And “Hear Us Out” brings some hopefulness to the proceedings.
Few of the 16 songs exceed two minutes. Rancid is in fighting spirits on “Tomorrow Never Comes.” And, even if the songs do sound samey, like watching an old boxer, it’s still a thrill to see him skip rope or throw a punch.
5. “Rancid” (1993)
As Operation Ivy had been, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman’s new band was the one to watch if you were following California punk. The group’s debut album, “Rancid,” proves it.
From the start, Armstrong, who takes on the role of lead singer, pledges his allegiance to the house that Joe Strummer built. But rather than purely imitating The Clash‘s, he’s interested in their fearless experimentation.
Three-chord punk rock is the jumping point here. Ska songs, too are par for the course. But Rancid’s sound would stretch out soon enough.
“Hyena,” “Rats in the Hallway,” or “Detroit” are quick-paced, menacing tracks that set Armstrong and bassist Freeman back on track.
4. “Indestructible” (2003)
Artists like Bob Dylan wrote some of their best work in times of emotional turmoil. And Tim Armstrong is no different, with “Indestructible” registering as one of Rancid’s best albums.
“Fall Back Down” and “Tropical London” echo the songwriter’s woes poignantly and movingly. Rancid has never counted controversy, but here they aren’t running away from tories about them either.
Meanwhile, “Indestructible” and the Frederiksen-sung “David Courtney” bring a crazed energy to the recordings.
And it’s when the band incorporates exotic elements that Rancid’s growth is most visible. “Django” rings like a great spaghetti-western soundtrack piece and “Memphis” takes in a dose of early rock n’ roll.
3. “Rancid ” (2000)
Confidence makes Rancid assimilate further influences into their sound. On “Rancid ,” they integrate all of these seamlessly and provide a fine collection of songs.
Tim Armstrong had always been a student of classic rock songwriting. However, the band’s early punk style could only show shades of this.
On this album, Armstrong has so many ideas on his mind that he dashes from one to another.
Many of his thoughts are related to political inequality and global issues. Songs like “Rwanda,” “Corruption,” and “BlackHawk Down” are particular highlights.
2. “Let’s Go” (1994)
Rancid’s greatest gift in its earliest days was making retro-punk seem brand new. On “Let’s Go” doesn’t lure you into the party. He pleads with you to enter.
It all makes for an inviting, blitzed-out sound that is reminiscent of The Ramones or The Clash. It’s one of Rancid’s less ambitious records but also their most fun.
“Salvation,” and “Let’s Go” are immediate punk-rock singalongs. The catchy “Radio” sees Green Day‘s Billie Joe Armstrong contribute his longtime friends’ new project. And “Nihilism” acts as a pact to shake off the skepticism that accompanied the lives of many California punks at the time.
1. “…And Out Come the Wolves” (1995) – The Best Rancid Album
Armstrong and Freeman’s 924 Gilman Street companions, Green Day, had helped put modern pop-punk in the eye of the hurricane of the new alternative music movement. But it was “…And Out Come the Wolves” that delivered the most powerful blow.
Rancid’s status had been on the rise. The album alludes to this. But major label interest was justified.
It wasn’t just the success of the Offspring that recommended Tim Armstrong’s group. It was, first and foremost, the ability to construct energy-filled, catchy singles that echoed The Clash or The Specials without falling into shameless imitation.
In the wake of the record’s release, Rancid seemed to be everywhere. They posed for Rolling Stone Magazine and were even ranked highly in terms of interest by Madonna and her record label.
Musically, the band had begun to take inspiration from Third Wave Ska Revival bands more freely. The core of their songwriting, however, hadn’t changed.
“Maxwell Murder” was a grimy street-rocker to open the album. “Olympia, WA” and “Journey to the End of the East Bay” acknowledged their old stomping grounds. “Roots Radicals,” with its lyrics of skinheads and punks, is one of Rancid’s greatest songs.
Meanwhile, the excellent, ska-infused “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho” became two of the greatest rock hits of the time, which are included on, frankly, part of the best 1,000 albums ever.
Few pop-punk records of the time were as satisfying as “…And Out Come the Wolves.” Not many had singles as popular as “Ruby Soho” or “Time Bomb.” Fewer still have aged this well.