Rancid stands the test of time

House of Blues , Boston, September 19, 2023

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

There was no thought of easing into this night of music from Rancid, playing the second of two nights in Beantown. The quartet was on terra firma though out of the gate with Lars Frederiksen and Tim Armstrong belting out one of the punkers' signature songs, "Roots Radicals."

And the crowd - moshers and all - were in together for the ride, singing along and doing their mosh pit thing throughout in a breakneck speed gig of 29 songs in 80 minutes!

Us vs. them. Loneliness. Standing tall. Those ideals are part of the punk ethos, and Rancid knew how to make them come alive for the mixed-age crowd.

The band's 1995 album, "...And Out Come the Wolves," was the focal point with Rancid playing 10 songs from the disc. It's understandable in a way when you have songs like "Roots Radicals" and the closing two songs of the night "Time Bomb" and "Ruby Soho" on the disc.

Truth be told. Rancid did take it down a notch or two a few times. Armstrong, for example, was pretty much solo with his guitar on "The War's End." It's another song of standing up for what you believe – "Little Sammy was a punk rocker/You know his mother never understand him/Went into his room and smashed his Billy Bragg record/Didn't want him to hear that communist lecture."

And several songs – "Time Bomb" among them – merged the ska/punk thing, which sounds great decades later.

The timekeeper – Branden Steineckert – was masterful on the drums. He maintained a powerful beat in song after song and was the backbone of Rancid.

Lots of credit as well to the sound person because in song after song, the vocals could easily be heard above the melodic buzzsaw anchoring the music. Armstrong and Frederiksen were the main lead singers, sometimes trading stanzas within the song. Armstrong's a bit grittier, but both more than held their own.

About the only negative was the failure of Rancid to lean into their June release, "Tomorrow Never Comes," which stands up to other Rancid albums. They only played the title track from their first disc in six years. One out of 16 songs? That just ain't right.

What they did play, though, sounded fresh and meaningful. These are tough times, but "Fall Back Down" and its lines "If I fall back down/You're gonna help me back up again/If I fall back down/ You're gonna be my" sounds right on target to this very day and in these days of world turmoil.

Thirty years on, Rancid still retains the grit, attitude and a lot of really good songs that stay relevant, standing the test of time.

Very long-running band Murphy's Law occupied a very different space than Rancid. Jimmy Gestapo is the brains behind the quartet, which plays hardcore punk. You didn't hear the melodicism or Rancid to say the least. The songs were fast, sometimes on the atonal side with the drumming at a different beat than where everyone was by design. And Gestapo was not the singer that Armstrong, Frederiksen or Freeman were.

That's all fine. Punk was not created to be super polished anyway. There's a certain charisma Gestapo displayed. He spent most of his time off the stage, on the floor with the fans. He may be 58 with lots of tattoos and wearing shorts, but age didn't matter. Gestapo made it clear Murphy's Law was about having a good time and forming a community at least for one night.

Gestapo had no problem knocking the folks who play across the street (Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park), railing against the rich players who don't care about others. "Fuck baseball," Gestapo opined. And despite most musicians showing up in town being sudden Sox fanatics, Gestapo was having none of that. The same could not be said of his guitarist, Ben Social, who sported a Yankees baseball cap. Now that's guts – wearing the hat of the enemy. What could be more punk than that?

© Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher • countrystandardtime@gmail.com
Visit our sister publication Country Standard Time