‘I’m back… I’m back where I belong…’ sings Tim Armstrong aka Lint aka Tim Timebomb; US punk band Rancid’s minted leader, arse hanging out of his trousers, ‘a rich man in a poor man’s shirt,’ as The Boss would have it. ‘I’ve been away far too long…’ he goes on. Well, yes and no. Since Rancid last released an album – 2009’s excellent Let The Dominoes Fall – Armstrong has put fingers in more pies than Sweeney Todd.
Just for starters, there’s his musical movie Tim Timebomb Sings Songs From RockNRoll Theater; that third Transplants album, In A Warzone; and Rebirth – a great collaboration with reggae royalty Jimmy Cliff. Meanwhile, Rancid bandmate, Viking and born-again boot boy Lars Frederiksen, filled the diary that opened up when he shut down his side project The Bastards by reaching out to the Oi! Polloi with his new band The Old Firm Casuals./o:p
So, the East Bay natives have clearly not been fannying about, but the solo stuff only holds off the business of a new Rancid album for so long. You never know what side of Rancid you’re going to get when news of a studio record leaks. It could be the commercial, radio-friendly stuff, old school Oi! and ska, or a mix of both.
Well, as it turns out …Honor Is All We Know isn’t as stylistically adventurous or as commercial as Let The Dominoes Fall or 2003’s Indestructible. This is Rancid at their leanest. No lumps of fat or gristle. Out of 14 tracks, a mere two cuts hang around for more than three minutes – and only by a few seconds.
Malfunction is Armstrong at his melodic best and wouldn’t sound out of place on the ’95 masterpiece …And Out Come The Wolves; likewise, the frantic Diabolical. Collision Course – ‘Sham 69 rocks reggae on my temple/with a 45 record on the turntable’ – and the gang squabble of Now We’re Through With You trigger fond memories of the tougher-sounding outfit of the 2000 Rancid record.
There’s a bit of ska too, natch. No US band nails the English 2 Tone thing like Rancid and the throbbing skank of Evil’s My Friend and Everybody’s Sufferin’ are devastating to the prosecution’s case.
Regardless of how the pie was made (…Honor Is All We Know took three years to pull together, apparently) these songs sound like they were written and beaten into shape in record time. Each riff is clipped to its bare essentials; every chorus insists on your participation like a terrace holler; bassist Matt Freeman and drummer Brandon Steineckert thunder along like a subway train.
To sound as vital at this point in their 23-year career is no mean feat. Back where they belong? Not just yes… hell yes./o:p