Rancid are one of the biggest punk rock bands of the 1990’s along with Green Day and The Offspring who formed in 1991 in Berkley, California. Formed by former members of the band Operation Ivy, they are often credited with reviving mainstream interest in the punk genre in the 90’s. Throughout their career and despite their mainstream success, they have always remained signed to an independent label and have a loyal fanbase, most of which consists of individuals involved in the punk community, unlike their peers Green Day who have gone to appeal to a more mainstream audience.
The band has only had two line-up changes during its twenty-nine-year career, with vocalist Tim Armstrong and bassist Matt Freeman being the only two original members. Guitarist Lars Frederiksen has been with the band since the tour for their self-titled debut album released in 1993 and Branden Steineckert has been the drummer since 2006 when he replaced Bret Reed.
In total they have released nine full length studio albums as well as various other releases. They have sold four million records in total, making them one of the most successful bands to have always been independent, despite having a couple of records distributed through Warner Brothers. Here is a list of ten of the best from their career…
# 10 – The Wolf
Kicking of this list is a track from 1998’s Life Won’t Wait. This is one of the best tracks on the album, being one of its more straight-up punk tracks. The band decided to enter the studio in 1997 whilst they were still enjoying the success of the third album, 1995’s …And Out Come the Wolves. It would the band’s final release on Epitaph for several years, after which they moved to Armstrong’s own label Hellcat Records.
# 9 – Sidekick
This two-minute stomper is from 1994’s Let Go and tells the story of a vigilante superhero named Wolverine (a name that sounds a little familiar…). This album was the first to feature Frederiksen on guitar. It peaked at number 97 on the Billboard 200 after more interest was brought to it after the success of other nineties punk bands such as Green Day. Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz was the record’s producer.
# 8 – Something in the Word Today
Life Won’t Wait saw the band go in several different directions after making three albums of straight-up punk, with this record containing songs that were influenced by ska, rockabilly and there was even some singer/songwriter orientated material. This song, however, is classic angry punk, with lyrics raging at the general state of the world, which is hardly an unheard of thing in punk, but it proves that it is where Rancid’s heart truly lies.
# 7 – As Wicked
Here is the first track on this list from Wolves which is regarded by many to be Rancid’s most classic album. This song is about violence, death and poverty found within inner cities and how many not affected choose to ignore it. This is one of the most crucial albums along with Green Day’s Dookie and The Offspring’s Smash that propelled the punk genre to the kind of mainstream popularity that it had not enjoyed since its beginnings in the late 1970’s.
# 6 – Avenues and Alleyways
It is safe to say that Wolves is a classic album and a top ten Rancid songs list needs a fair few cuts of it. The question however is: which ones? There are no bad tracks on it and selecting them is very difficult, as when you are writing a list dissecting the best of a band’s career, all of the songs obviously cannot all be from the same album! With all that said, this song is worthy of selection, being a classic anthemic song about punk unity and loyalty.
# 5 – Fall Back Down
This was the first single to be released from 2003’s Indestructible where it reached number thirteen on the US Modern Rock Tracks. This is about the breakup of Armstrong’s marriage to Distillers front woman Brody Dalle, how it affected him and how his friends helped him get through it. The video featured cameos from Kelly Osbourne and Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden, something which was met with criticism from some of the more elitist punk community.
# 4 – Root Radicals
Here is a track that first released as a single in 1994 and was then re-recorded and released as the first single from Wolves. It reached number twenty-seven on the Billboard Modern Rock Charts. As the title would suggest, the song draws from the band’s reggae influence which it mixes with and early punk reminiscent of bands such as Stiff Little Fingers. It is written from the perspective of a youth who finds their path in life through the skinhead and punk subcultures.
# 3 – Radio
This song from Let’s Go was co-written with Green Day vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong which is likely why it has a more poppy sound than a lot of Rancid’s material. Rancid, despite being considered peers of Green Day and The Offspring have never been considered pop punk unlike those bands. When you consider that this was released the same year as GD’s Dookie which is a multi-platinum selling album, collaborating with their front man was definitely a helpful move in terms of reaching for commercial success.
# 2 – Ruby Soho
Just off the top spot is a track that is widely considered to be Rancid classic that was the third and final single from Wolves that reached number thirteen on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks. Here is a song where the band’s career-long comparisons to The Clash are made very easy to understand, as Armstrong very much wears his influence from Joe Strummer on his sleeve. The line of the song “Echoes of Reggae coming from my bedroom walls” is very apt, as those same echoes are very much coming from the song as well.
# 1 – Journey To The End Of The East Bay
At the top spot of the list is yet another track from Wolves. The song is very melodic and emotional and is actually a nostalgic look back at Armstrong and Matt Freeman’s (who puts in a brilliant bass performance here) time in their previous band Operation Ivy. The reason for writing it? Because Rancid are a band who always make a point of never forgetting where they come from. Without Operation Ivy, there would have been no Rancid and a lot of other punk band would never have existed either.