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Salvation through Punk--The Rancid story®--- Contrary to the popular Sonic Youth-led opinion, 1994 was the year punk belatedly broke in America. Berkeley's pop-punk heroes, Green Day, released Dookie, and watched its sales reach astronomical proportions. Down in southern California, the Offspring were undergoing a similar transformation to stardom. For Rancid, the effect was immediate and dramatic. Rumors flew threw the music world. Rancid had been offered $7,000,000 to sign to Epic. Madonna sent a nude photo of herself to encourage them to join her label, Maverick. The band was about to abandon its punk principles, take the money and run. No, Rancid was about to pull one of the biggest rock 'n roll swindles since the Sex Pistols. Who would have believed, even six months earlier, that there'd be so much attention surrounding a small, hard-working band, barely known to the national press, and then merely for its mohawk haircuts, and not its selling power. True punks in music, attitude and behavior, Rancid seemed the band least likely to capture the nation's imagination. Didn't America really want a kinder, gentler face of punk? Besides, two of Rancid's members had already had their shot at the big time, and deliberately tossed it away. Fame and fortune never knocks twice, does it? Well, the band was about to prove everyone wrong, including itself. Rancid seemed destined for the world of McJobs. Guitarist Lars Frederiksen explained, "Rancid is a working class punk band with a street-level point of view. We write about what we experience in everyday life, the things we've been through. We talk about unions and union strikes, working, things that we've done, seen or been around. We all basically grew up in working class neighborhoods, and that's what we've seen." All four members' working class families instilled a hard work ethic in their children. Even so, drummer Brett Reed's family was forced to rely on food stamps. Their economic situation was so dismal that Reed left school at 16 to help support the family. But at least he had a father who was trying hard; Frederiksen didn't even have that. He was a latchkey kid, whose mom worked long hours as an Avon lady. Bassist Matt Freeman was luckier, his family was solidly working class, his dad a cop. Singer Tim "Lint" Armstrong's dad was an alcoholic, drinking away much of the money his mom worked so hard as a secretary to earn. It's no wonder Armstrong was to have so many bitter experiences later in life, much of which would be churned into Rancid's songs. But in common with the rest of the band, his working class roots remained strong, and family remains important, which is why the band is so close. In fact, Armstrong's friendship with Freeman dates back to their first meeting at age five in their home town of Albany, California. A shared love of punk came later, a particular love for first wave Britpunk bands was perhaps inevitable. Those bands--although most came out of middle class backgrounds--spoke directly to the working class youth of the day. Their anger and frustration at the world around them, a willingness to shine a bright light on society's iniquities and an overwhelming desire to bring down the current order, touched a chord in Britain's youth in the late 70's. It would touch a similar chord in all the members of Rancid. Punk itself, with its frenetic, angry, chaotic performances, was a perfect outlet for a music scene simmering with frustration and rage. It was an ideal match. Soon Armstrong and Freeman began playing together, initially both on guitar. They jammed their way through innumerable, long-forgotten groupings of friends; the "bands" remained mostely nameless, nothing more than rehearsals in garages and living rooms. But all that changed in 1987, when they hooked up with drummer Dave Mello and singer Jesse Michaels. The quartet formed Operation Ivy, which Freeman tags a "punk-ska" band. Their inspiration was taken partly from the original Two Tone bands and Berkeley's own ska scene. Freeman explained, "There was a ska band here in the early '80's, the Uptones, which were a f*cking great band. They were Berkeley High kids, and I think they broke up around '86 or'87. There was a ska scene here once, but that was pretty much over by the time Operation Ivy came out. However, you still find their influence on our records." (The Uptones would eventually provide more than an influence, as we'll see.) Operation Ivy, to a certain extent, stood out like a sore thumb in the ska scene. First, in their two-year career they played only once with another ska band, and second, they didn't have a horn section. In fact, on only two occasions did Op Ivy use any horns at all: a sax can be found on "Bad Town" (from the "Energy" album), and they did one live show with a sax player. "I think eventually we would have liked to have horns, but we weren't around long enough. It just never came into the picture," said Freeman. Op Ivy debuted live in April 1987, in Mello's garage. If Freeman's recollections are right, they played the following day at Gilman Street, opening for MDC (Millions of Dead Cops) and Gang Green. "From then on, we played as many shows as we could; I think the official number is 185, give or take a couple. It was really weird, it's the only band I've ever played in that made a consistent effort to count. We were playing so much, especially that first summer, we played all over the place, just crazy f*cking shows." And Op Ivy did play anywhere and everywhere: the Place in Davis (now a parking lot), in Chico, the C&W Saloon in San Francisco, Gilman Street, of course, and parties, lots of parties. The latter made up the bulk of their shows. Later that year, Op Ivy debuted on the Maximum Rock 'N Roll compilation "Turn it Around" with two tracks, "Officer" and "I Got No." The original format was a double 7-inch, however, the record was reissued around 1990 as a single 12-inch, with profits benefitting Gilman Street. Both songs were under two minutes long; Op Ivy's longest recorded effort, "Bad Town," clocked in at just over two and a half minutes. "Officer" was a full-on ska song dripping punk sentiments. "I Got No" was more raucous, a short, but shambling punk song. It was a decent debut effort, but honestly, it was their live shows that were making the most impression. Larry Livermore, a fixture at Gilman Street, knew that Op Ivy was special from the first time he saw them. Livermore, a member of another Berkeley band, the Lookouts, had already self-released his own group's album. Now he and friend David Hayes began talking about putting out records by other Gilman bands. They approached four local bands, including Op Ivy, who all agreed. In January 1988, Lookout Records released their first four 7-inch EP's. The "Hectic" EP split the songs between hardcore--"Junkie's Runnin' Dry," "Hoboken," "Sleep Long,"--and ska: "Here We Go Again," "Yellin' in My Ear," and "Healthy Body." But bar the latter track, even the ska songs went by at lightening speed. Their blending of hardcore and ska within songs would eventually launch a new sub-genre, skacore. The impact was immediate, and Livermore credits Op Ivy for the label's success. Berkeley scenestress and veritable booker, Kamala Parks, organized a 6-week tour for Op Ivy that began in March 1988. And, credit given where credit's due; Freeman notes that Cathy Bauer, now at Lookout Records, then in St. Louis, was the first out-of-state person to book the band. Op Ivy played shows anywhere they could across the country, mostly at parties, although they did perform at a few clubs. Their biggest gig, in front of a crowd of 200, was in Chicago with Toxic Region, Zero Boys, Germany's KGB and Desperate Minds. However, San Diego holds the record for the best paying show: There they received the princely sum of $140 ( a phenomenal amount for an unknown band, even today). Amazingly, Op Ivy returned home with cash in hand, a princely $300. "You have to understand, we ate out like twice, we didn't spend any money at all, hardly. We just sold shirts and ate cheese sandwiches on the hood of the car," laughs Freeman. Back in Berkeley, the band continued playing numerous shows to ever-growing numbers of fans. They followed up their Lookout EP with a full-length album, "Energy," in 1989. The album proved that Op Ivy was maturing musically. Songs like "Take Warning," "Unity," and "Bad Town" actually slowed the pace to a mid-tempo beat, and added reggae to their repertoire. The band was replacing some of its break-neck speed with musicianship and tighter songwriting. But even the most frenetic songs, like "Bombshell," tossed in quick guitar leads and backup vocals. Initially, the record was released on vinyl and cassette only, but in 1991, the album appeared on CD, and included the "Hectic" EP and their "Turn it Around" tracks. In 1992, a further posthumous release appeared, the "Plea for Peace" EP. This came out through auspices of old friend Murray Bowles, who took many of the band's photographs, and Eric Yee. There are also a considerable number of Op Ivy bootlegs on the market, many containing live material from Gilman Street shows, and the occasional demo. "Plea for Peace" also reappeared in this entirety on a bootleg as well. Some readers may find it a little confusing that Freeman is listed as Matt McCall on Op Ivy records. "McCall was a nickname that Jesse gave me. It was a joke, and he ended up putting it on the record. It had to do with the TV show, "The Equalizer," the character's name was McCall." "Back in the day, I used to organize all this f*cking crazy s*it, borrow people's cars and get trips together. I was just a total operator, that was the way things were back then. You didn't have any money, so you had to hustle things." "Jesse would say, 'You're like the Equalizer dude, you got all that s*it taken care of." So Jesse dubbed Freeman McCall, but eventually, the joke and name would fade away. What was no joke, thought, was Op Ivy's growing popularity. The band was playing throughout California, including unforgettable shows in L.A.'s South Central parks. They played the Anti Club, and even made it to Phoenix on April 22, 1989, where they played with the Offspring. It would be one of their last shows. The band was having serious problems with their growing success. This level of success was something they never expected, but one person did, Larry Livermore. Freeman recalls, " We were playing this show in Fresno, and Larry came along. I remember quite specifically him telling me, in the middle of a California desert, that Op Ivy was going to be one of those bands, like the Dead Kennedys, that keep selling more records after we break up. "I said, 'Whatever, Larry. I think you did too much acid in the hippie days, dude." I didn't think that, no one thought that. You've got to understand that back then it wasn't like it is now; major labels offering you millions of dollars, all these bands coming out of nowhere and getting contracts. When Larry was telling me that, I didn't believe him, but he's since proved me wrong. I've actually talked to him since and said, 'You were totally right." Apparently, this wasn't the only time that Livermore and an Op Ivy member had this conversation. This is the label head's take on those discussions. "I used to have these big arguments with Op Ivy and they'd say, 'Well, we thought you were a nut then, but I guess you were right.'" With hindsight it's easy to see how big Op Ivy would become. They gigged constantly, and their shows were always memorable. "Live, we were insane. We used to go crazy; things would break down, it was just chaos. You've got to understand, it was a punk show. There'd be people flying and flailing around the equipment, equipment getting knocked over, it was just chaotic." And that's precisely how life was becoming. "It just got too crazy. We started off as this little garage band, and then we got really popular, really quick. We had to start dealing with all sorts of crazy stuff. Before, if we showed up it was, "Great here they are," but later, if we didn't show up for some reason it would be a tragedy." "I think the bigger you get the more pressures are put upon you. We were all young and just didn't want to do it like that any more. I'm sort of glad it stopped when it did, because it didn't have time to really degenerate into... (Freeman dissolves into laughter) Who knows what would have happened." On Rancid's new album, "...And Out Come the Wolves," there's a track called "Journey to the End of East Bay," which is Armstrong and Freeman's take on the demise of Op Ivy. "In 1989 you got a garage or an amp, we'll play anytime. It was just the four of us; too much attention unavoidedly destroyed us." In May 1989, Op Ivy dissolved, gone but not forgotten. In fact, the band's fame and fortune has increased exponentially over time. Livermore was indeed right. "Most people don't realize it, but Op Ivy was our biggest band for years, Green Day existed in their shadow until "Dookie. Op Ivy is still selling more than ever; each year they sell twice as much as the year previous, and that's been going on since 1989." At current count, "Energy" has sold over 175,000 copies. Freeman still finds it a little hard to believe. "Bands break up all the time. If you had asked me six years ago if we'd been such a big deal and people would keep talking about us, I would have said no. It was just a band, I didn't think anybody knew us outside of the Bay Area and the people we hit on tour." "Christ, we went to Europe a couple of years ago, and even five years ago when I was there with MDC, it was insane. Everyone was like, "Oh, you come from Op Ivy and blah, blah, blah." "Still, I started to get a feel for it in '91 when the CD came out,...To us, even in Rancid, it was a gradual thing. It's like being in a tornado, all this crazy s*it is going on around you, but you're in the eye and everything is calm. If after Op Ivy I'd have gone to some island or Antarctica or something, stayed there for five years, and then come back out, I probably would have been in shock. I think where poeple get into trouble is they just get moved up too f*cking quick, and they don't really have the ability to deal with it. And that's sort of what happened with Op Ivy; it was real fasttrack, it just happened really quick." "People think that the band's still around, too. We get letters, "I bought the new Beastie Boys and Op Ivy. When are you guys going to come and play Boston?' Well we broke up six years ago, sorry." Since then Michaels went to Nicaragua, and later became a buddhist monk for a period. Mello has since joined Schlong, who have an extensive discography of their own. Meanwhile, in the waning days of Op Ivy, Armstrong formed the ska band Dance Hall Crashers. Freeman, switching back to guitar, joined him there for a brief period. Armstrong wrote much of the band's early material before leaving in late 1989-early 1990. During the summer of 1989, Armstrong, Freeman, Mello and his brother Pat (who'd roadied for Op Ivy) and the Dance Hall Crashers' Jason Hammond, formed Downfall. The reggae-infused band played a few dates around Berkeley and did some recording, which Lookout will hopefully be releasing in the near future. In the meantime, the curious will have to be satisfied with the tracks they've released on compilations through Lookout, Maximum R 'N R, and Very Small World. At some point around this time, Freeman also went into the studio and recorded "Back to Bodie" with Kamala and the Karnivores for their debut single on Lookout. In the spring of 1990, Freeman joined the legendary MDC. He debuted live with them in April 1990, then accompanied them on their American tour from June through July, with Armstrong along as a roadie. In August and September, MDC toured Europe, afterwards, Freeman went on to record their new album, "Hey Cop If I Had A Face Like Yours," with the band. However, by the end of the year he'd had enough. "MDC was like being in the Punk-Rock marine corp. I never worked so hard in my life. I shouldn't say that, I worked harder in Rancid; let's just say it was trying. They were all older. I was just a young kid and they sort of kicked by ass, like I was in boot camp." In other words, they kept you in line? "Yeah, they kept me in line...they also taught me a lot about being in a band." However, with no band, there was no money, and Freeman spent the next year and a half working at a truck rental company to dig himself out of debt. "Toward tthe end, I was king of the car washers. I had a little staff and organized everything, but that's because I was insane and working in a job that I was completely overqualified for. They wanted to give me a management title, but I wouldn't take it. I told them, "I do a really good job now, if you give me a title, you're just going to expect me to do all this cool s*it, now I'm just a hero." The job had its benefits, including a van and on-hands experiences working on cars. Meanwhile, Armstrong was also struggling to make ends meet. He held a series of jobs that just didn't cover the bills, and was slipping into a spiraling poverty trap. He ended up homeless, couch-surfing, and, at his lowest point, living and working at a Salvation Army shelter. Armstrong was drinking too, way too much, and that's when Freeman stepped in. At the end of 1991, the pair started a new band, Rancid. They brought in another Gilman Street regular, Brett Reed, on drums, formerly of the nowhere band Smog. The trio debuted at a friend's house in Oakland around Christmas time. There'd be many more shows to follow, but at this point the band was still relative unknowns. It was small enough that Freeman could initially split his time between them and the Gr'ups. In fact, one memorable show, at a party in Oakland, featured an all-star line-up of the Gr'ups, Rancid, and Berkeley supergroup, Pinhead Gunpowder. The Gr'ups featured two members of the Blatz and old friend and booker, Kamala Parks. Freeman returned to guitar for this rockabilly punk band; that was his homage to his all-time favorite band X. The group played out every few months, and soon released a single on Lookout Records. In 1992, Rancid also debuted on Lookout Records with a five-song single. "I'm Not the Only One"'s dark intro was driven by a pulsing bass line, which then splayed into frenetic hardcore. But the seeds of things to come were already planted, the chorus was melodic and anthemic. "Battering Ram" followed a similar path, though hardcore, with nods to the L.A. scene, with a shout-along chorus. "The Sentence" and "Media Controller" were both equally aggressive, frenetic, and while not tuneless, were not strong on melodies. But "Idle Hands" almost harkened back to Op Ivy, with its reggaefied intro, before it kicked in to pure hardcore. At this point, the influences weren't the early Britpunks, but the later Oi and hardcore scenes. In this country, the terms punk and hardcore have become synonymous, but initially they had quite distinct meanings. Originally, punk was a wide, but closed genre that encompassed bands as diverse as the Pistols and Elvis Costello, the Clash and Generation X. Punk had more to do with attitude than sound, which is why a pub-rocker like Nick Lowe, mods like the Jam and Who copyists Generation X could all be tagged Punk. Although their musical take could be quite different, there was a shared attitude toward the world at large that kept the movement coherent. Across the punk spectrum, the bands looked around them and rejected what they saw, their solution was simple, pull it down and start again. With the eventual co-opting and demise of punk, a new generation sprung up at the turn of the decade. They arrived even angrier than their progenitors. They played faster, more aggressively, and tossed melodies away for straight out rage. In Britain, they were labeled Oi (the British equivalent of Hey You!) and many, but not all of the bands had ties to Neo-nazi groups. In this country, similar bands sprung up and were labeled hardcore. The scene was different from punk both in the sound and music. The original punks were not violent; this was not true of the hardcore scene, and the obvious example was in the dances. Punks pogoed, jumping up and down in place, in a mostly solitary display. The hardcore scene slam-danced, which by defintion meant bashing into your neighbors. Although the media was responsible for feeding the scene of violence around the scene, in truth, it was more violent. It was also more nihilistic. Punks may have wanted to destroy, but they had intentions of building on the rubble. Punks had no problem preaching. The hardcore scene just wanted to destroy, it had no hopes of creating something better in its place. To them, sermons on improving the world were anathema. "We're not trying to be self-proclaimers of anything," Frederiksen elaborated. "Punk rock to me is not about making a better life for yourself, nor sitting aroung and moping about s*it. Personally, I can't do that. I do what comes naturally to me, making music; keeping my convictions inside and going on with what I'm doing. Rancid isn't one of those bands that wants to change the world." That's quite a different stance from the first wave punks, which strove for political activism in their music and their lives. Many of the early punks were directly involved in Rock against Racism, and by extension, in working against the Neo-nazi National Front Party. But Frederiksen best sums up the difference between the old and new generation's attitude with the following: "I can't intellectualize about things that are so terrible. You want to do something for people, more than anything in the world! But you just don't know what. I believe it all starts with yourself believing or noticing what's around you. Still, it's really not about politics or your personal beliefs, it's about music." And so, for the purpose of this piece, the author will be distinguishing between the terms, especially in the musical sense. In the summer of 1992, the Gr'ups went on a two-week tour opening for the Offspring. "We had a lot of fun, it was almost like a vacation. That's what it was for me, because I'd quit my job to go on this tour. It was one of the most fun times I ever had in my life. No one knew who the f*ck we were, people kind of knew who the Offspring were. We went out in two vans, but the Offspring were more rock, because they had air-conditioning in their cars." "They'd just finished recording their first album for Epitaph and I was giving the guys so much s*it for signing to them. "Ooooh, big Bad Religion label!" I was joking around, but I was just giving them so much s*it. Of course, at the end of the tour Dexter Holland said, "Your band should call up Mr. Brett." "I'm like 'Yeah, right.' Lo and behold, now we're on that label." Freeman seems to have a propensity for making statements he'll be ruing later. "Yeah, I guess I'm not very smart. You know why? I just never take anything very seriously; 'Whatever, dude, we'll see what happens.' I'm sort of a realist...well, mostly it's me just being combative. 'Yeah, right, Larry, right, Dexter.'" The bassist bursts into laughter. After the tour, the Gr'ups broke up, later reforming without Freeman. However, he did help their new guitarist learn the songs. By that time, Freeman wanted to focus exclusively on Rancid. The band was now considering adding a second guitarist, and initially invited in Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong. Op Ivy had played quite a few shows with Green Day, and trivia fans already know that Green Day opened for Op Ivy's final show, appropriately enough, at Gilman Street. Since those days, the two Armstrongs (no relation) had become close friends. At the end of 1992, Billie Joe played one show with Rancid, but it obviously wasn't a permanent solution, as the Green Day guitarist/singer couldn't afford to split his time between two bands. Meanwhile, even though Rancid had never bothered contacting Epitaph, Gurewitz had gotten hold of Rancid's single himself, and called the band. Near the end of 1992, the trio went down to L.A. to meet with the label. In January they were in West Beach, Gurewitz's Hollywood studio, recording thier first album, "Ooooh, big Bad Religion label!" must have been continually echoing in Freeman's ears. In between recording times, the band returned to Berkeley, where Reed ran into guitarist Lars Frederiksen. The guitarist had been a member of Slip, who'd opened for one of Rancid's early shows. Since then, he'd join the seminal British punk band, UK Subs, and been touring with them. But Sub captain Charlie Harper is notoriously difficult to work with, and Frederiksen was now looking for a new band. With the album nearly done, the trio returned to the studio, but Rancid was now officially a quartet. Which is precisely how their self-penned Epitaph bio reads. Once again, Freeman was about to put his foot in his mouth, only this time the rest of the band helped: "Brett drummed for the infamous Smog, Lars played with the UK Subs, and Lint and Matt wasted their time in a band called Operation Ivy. Smog played once and Operation Ivy played 185 times. I have no idea how many times UK Subs played. Smog recorded their first practice, while Op Ivy released a 7-inch, a full-length album, then broke up in 1989 and faded into obscurity. UK Subs are probably still struggling out there somewhere. Although Smog broke up in 1991, in some people's hearts they will be forever." Although the bio then makes clear that Op Ivy was indeed a groundbreaking band, it ended with the following statement: "Through hard work, persistence and an explosive debut LP on Epitaph, Rancid has managed to do the impossible; they were able to shake the legendary image and sound of Smog. This record is a testament to that victory." Those in the know found the bio hysterical, but not everyone got the joke. MTV obviously didn't (why am I not surprised?--Jen), and when it debuted Rancid's video, the VJ quoted straight-faced from the bio. Freeman said, "Then we started seeing all these ads, 'Ex-Smog!'" Rancid's eponymous album arrived in April 1993 and the change in the band's sound from its single was dramatic. The songs were still frenetic, but the band was now concentrating harder of melody, and some of the choruses even spotted harmonies. The influences were diverse. While the album still had numerous nods to the hardcore scene on both sides of the Atlantic, snatches of the Clash were also sneaking in. The radio single "Hyena" contained an opening bass line which owned much to the Brit band's cover of "Black Cadillac" (the author got this wrong--she means "Brand New Cadillac"--Jen). Meanwhile, "Outta My Mind" had guitar lines reminiscent of Johnny Thunders circa the Heartbreakers. Bad Religion also seems an obvious influence. But this isn't to suggest that Rancid had composed a totally derivative album; they hadn't. Songs like "The Bottle" and "Unwritten Rules" had jangly, harmony drenched choruses unlike any of the hardcore bands, the latter was even brushed with a light-speed ska sound, although their cover of the Uptones' song, "Get Outa My Way" did not. But it was "Another Night" that heralded the future. The song had a tag-team sing-along chorus and trade-off vocals that would soon become their trademark. The tag-team approach is typical in the hip-hop world, but rare elsewhere, which makes Rancid songs instantly identifiable. The song was full of hooks, but less in a musical sense than in stand-out lines that the listener just had to shout or sing along with it. The back cover of the album features Rancid standing in front of a sign pointing the way to Gilman St., and that's precisely where they were headed. They played around the Berkeley area throughout the summer of 1993, slipping in a few L.A. shows, including one with Green Day. In September, Rancid embarked on their first tour of the States, tossing in two shows with Bad Religion and Green Day in L.A. and Salt Lake City. In November, the band left for a seven-week European tour, which included Britain, Italy, Belgium, and multiple shows in Germany. In the new year, they released the "Radio Radio Radio" single, on Fat Wreck Chords, the label run by NOFX's Fat Mike. This was Frederiksen's debut on record; the title song, "Radio" was co-written by Green Day's Armstrong. "Radio" was the perfect cross between Green Day and Rancid; the song was played at normal Rancid hyperspeed, but the chorus was pure Green Day pop harmony. "Dope Sick Girl" was also a lightening-speed track, featuring split vocals and one of the fastest guitar leads ever played. "Just a Felling" (a deliberate misspelling) reached warp speed, with Lars providing a guitar lead that rivaled "Dope Sick Girl" and a chorus drenched in melody. The middle section slows slightly, and Tim Armstrong's vocals drop to a chant. "Someone's Gunna Die" was Freeman's turn to excel, the song a hardcore gem with a chanted chorus of "oi, oi, oi." If there was anyone with doubts about the band's musical mastery, "Radio Radio Radio" laid them permanently to rest. But how did this single turn up on Fat Wreck Chords as the band was now signed to Epitaph? "Mr. Brett (Gurewitz) doesn't care if we put out 7-inches elsewhere, and Fat Mike had asked us long before to do a single for him, so we just did it. Fat Mike's always had faith in us; he's helped us out and been a good friend to the whole band. He was one of our earliest supporters. I think it's been really good for him, and he totally deserves it." In February 1994, the band began recording "Let's Go." If the musical leap between their debut and the single was immense, their next leap was enormous. Twenty-three songs crammed into just under 45 minutes, the record was a perfect blend of hardcore, punk, and pop. The songs still zipped by at warp speed, but within, there were slower passages and breaks, all seamlessly sewn together to give them a fluid feel. The album was overflowing with tight melodies, choruses that rang with hooks and anthemic lyrics. The radio single chosen was "Salvation," a pure crowd sing-along, but it was the loosest of the songs, and for that reason alone, not representative of the rest of the album. More apt was "Side Kick" with its pounding drum beat, tight guitars, driving bass, and catchy chorus. "Salvation"'s lyrics were semi-autobiographical, telling of Armstrong's experiences at the Salvation Army, where he exchanged a bed for driving around the burbs, picking up the well-to-do's cast-offs. With "Let's Go", the Clash comparisons came fast and furious, especially aimed at Armstrong, whose gruff vocal style is reminiscent of a less mumbly Joe Strummer. A more accurate comparison of the band's sound would be to cross the Clash with hardcore, for the Englishmen never played this fast. But Rancid's song structures are similar, while their attitude was identical. As always, there were hints of reggae and ska carefully embedded into the songs, syncopated bass lines that sneak in, like the slow passage in "Burn." It was as if Rancid had rolled the whole of the larger punk genre into "Let's Go." An in a way they had. But it's really the intangible things that make "Let's Go" a punk classic. This includes the lyrics that ring with truth, sincerity, and reality. Equally important, though, was the sustained level of energy, a hyperkenetism that infuses the record, spraying out over the listener like a jolt of double espresso. That spring, with the album completed, Rancid put together a side project, Shaken '69. Joining forces with ex-Op Ivy drummer Dave Mello, the Uptones' Paul Jackson and Eric "Dinwitty" Dinn, and featuring Skankin' Pickles' Lars Nylander and Mike Park on horns, Shaken '69 is a pure ska band. The group recorded a couple of songs which hopefully will be turning up in the near future on compilation. Shaken '69 would like to do more, but as all the members are in working bands, it's difficult to schedule time. In June, Rancid embarked on a month-long tour that covered the south and midwest. After a brief break, they spent August with Sick of It All playing the west coast. But the highlight of the summer shows was the Epitaph Summer Nations shows. A label celebration and party, the celebration stretched across 3 days at L.A.'s Palladium, a gala event to rejoice in the rise of punk and Epitaph. The highpoint for many fans was when Pennywise invited Armstrong and Frederiksen onstage for a rendition of Minor Threat's "Straight Edge." Come autumn, Rancid were back on their own touring across the nation. Then, in November, they joined forces with the Offspring for a series of shows that left crowds partying in happy exhaustion. 1994 also saw the release of the Epitaph compilation, "Punk-o-Rama", which features two Rancid tracks, "Hyena" and "I Wanna Riot." "Riot" was a slow skanker with a dark turn, the closest comparison might be the Specials without the horns. Rancid was also featured on the Kill Rock Stars compilaiton, "Rock Stars Kill." Their track, "Brixton," is cloaked in an early reggae sound, down to the '60s sounding keyboard lines. The album was subtitled "23 More Bands that Don't Want to Be Rock Stars," which might have been true in some cases, but at least one band wasn't so sure. By now, Rancid was a hot commodity, "Let's Go" went swiftly gold, and is currently working toward platinum, thus label reps were turning up at numerous shows. Word quickly spread through the press, and a media frenzy began. And as Freeman explains, "Then we went through all that major label stuff." Although the band fielded numerous offers, incluidng Maverick (Madonna did indeed send them a photo of herself, which was taken from the book), it was Epic that made the biggest impressions. Epic had a lot going for it. It was the Clash's label, it was offering $1,500,000 and Micheal Goldstone and Michelle Anthony were genuinely nice people, who sincerely liked the band. "Last summer was just f*cking nuts; you had all these bands going crazy (saleswise), and if you do this for a long time you start thinking in those terms. We're only human, and we talked to them; if anything, it was a quest for knowledge. If anyone's throwing that much money in your face , and you see all the other bands selling like crazy, you're going to consider it. You'd be a fool not to." "None of us are college-educated; this band's our life, this is all we have. When people are giving you that much attention, you're going to listen to them. So, I'm not ashamed for talking to them. Some people have said, "How can you even think about it?" Well, f*ck you, I'd like to see you be so f*cking ideological." "All of our parents kept working. My dad just had a double hip operation last year from working all his f*cking life. We all came from working class areas, we don't have trust funds, this is all we have. If this dies tomorrow, we'll be doing what we were before this, washing cars or making pizzas. Yeah, we thought about it." "In the end, when all was said and done, we made a band decision that we wanted to stay with Epitaph. No matter what happened that's where we should be, just because our friends were there." "I read someplace were it was being compared to (the Sex Pistols) "Great Rock and Roll Swindle" which would have been a great story--yeah, we took them to the brink--but no, it had nothing to do with that, I wish it was that heroic." And when the dust settled, Rancid went back to work. January 1995 saw the release of their new single "Roots Radicals" b/w "I Wanna Riot." The single was extremely catchy, with snatches of punk guitar leads vying with the ska-infested bass and drum line. The chorus is anthemic; heard once, you'll be chanting it forever. The song has since reappeared on their new album. In February, Rancid returned to the road for a short tour encompassing L.A., Chicago, New York, Boston, and other big cities. Then it was back to the studio in March, where they spent the next six weeks recording the new album with Jerry Finn in the producer's chair and Gurewitz behind the supervising board. After "Let's Go" ti wa hard to imagine what Rancid's next step would be. Many bands would have been satisfied recording an extension of their last album. But Rancid have an ability to scour out new musical crests and mount them with seeming ease. And thus it was with "...And Out Come the Wolves." Even the brief intro to the opening track, "Maxwell Murder" was unexpected: a dark, eerie sample from the movie, "Gringo." And although the rest of the song was standard Rancid punk, the album quickly shifts gear with "The 11th Hour" co-written by the Uptones' Eric Dinn. This song was slower than almost anything they'd done before, its Clash influences proudly bared. Then, there was the inclusion of "Roots Radicals" which, while not surprising ("Radio" was also included on an album), heralded a welcome return to singles and compilations. The new single, "Time Bomb," was full-on ska, with its chorus recalling Ian Dury's "Sweet Gene Vincent" black/white listing. Two more ska tracks, "Daly City Train" and the hook-laden "Old Friend" also appear, all three featuring the Uptones and Shakin' 69-er Paul Jackson on organ. Virtually all of the 19 tracks are played at a mid-tempo pace, even though the album is just under 50 minutes long. Rancid's propensity for trade-off vocals has increased, to great effect. With each member having a distinct voice and style, the trade-offs give each song and the lines within added power and individuality. With the pace slowed, there's more room for both backing vocals and the instruments to come to the fore. While Reed provides an excellent backbone for the music, Freeman continues to play a highlighted role unusual in punk. On songs like "Journey..." his bass virtually carries the song. Frederiksen also has greater opportunity to shine. Many of his riffs are bright, breezy Clash-inspired passages, not surprising from a man who places the English punks at the top of his hits list. Many of his brief, but crucial, leads are reminiscent of that band as well. However, Frederiksen is a far better guitarist than the Clash's Mick Jones was in 1977-78. Thus, Frederiksen's guitar parts are more proficient, inventive, and interesting. While most reviewers will opt for the easy Clash comparison, "Wolves" is not just the best album the Clash never wrote; the sound goes far beyond that. Songs like "Maxwell Murder" and "As Wicked" owe nothing to England's finest. "Listed M.I.A." has guitar leads clawed from Johnny Thunders, while "Avenues & Alleyways" is the Heartbreakers playing a slowed-down hardcore. "The Way I Feel" even throws in a Pistols' riff, before dissolving into pure Rancid melodic speedcore. As always the lyrics were ripped from the band's personal experiences. There's the good times to be found in "Olympia, WA," Op Ivy's demise in "Journey...," the chilling look at addiction in "Junkyman," the misery of homelessness in "As Wicked," and the ubiquitous songs about girls, including "She's Automatic," "Old Friend," "You Don't Care Nuthin'", et. al. "Wolves" was nothing short of sublime, and will inevitably bring Rancid even greater success. After its completion, the band took a well-deserved break. A September tour of Europe is scheduled followed by another national tour. At the time of writing in early August, their single is already receiving major airplay. Rancid's climb through the music jungle has not been as meteoric as their labelmates', neither the Offspring nor their friends Green Day. Still, their success has been dramatic, and for much of the music scene, as unexpected as the other two. In many ways, Rancid's breakthrough has been most exciting. The band is truest in vision and sound to the first wave of punks that stormed through Britian, but left America cold. From Rancid's mohawks, bondage pants and studded leather jackets to the social awareness of their songs, the group carries the torch of true punk. The seed of rebellion are still in place, and remain there everytime Armstrong raises his middle finger toward a photographer. That rebellion spells trouble to parents and danger to the established order, which is why the Britpunks found themselves co-opted and eventually marginalized out of existence. But Rancid remains unfettered, sticking to their guns with their Epitaph posse behind them. Across England, one can still find the old spray-painted slogan, PUNK ROOLS, fading away on walls. But, in America, punk rools anew. And Rancid is the new order. The author, Jo-Ann Greene, goes on to thank Rancid for thier help with this piece, and particularly Matt Freeman for making so much of his limited spare time available. Thanks also go out to Larry Livermore, Cathy Bauer, Lookout Records, Fat Wreck Chords, Flipside records, and the people at Epitaph. Thanks to Johans punk page