If you’re a Rancid fan then the recent run of pre-release singles from Trouble Maker won’t have inspired confidence in the album. But never fear, the 17 songs here are more hit than miss. In the context of this record, even a couple of those sub-par singles make sense. All the good and bad points of Rancid are present and correct. They are thrown in to sharp relief by Epitaph founder and Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz's production.
Tim Armstrong is still the Ian Brown of punk with a voice like a goose farting in the fog. The disappearance of Matt Freeman’s bass is still unresolved. This band has a virtuoso four-stringer with a style that is individual, inimitable, and wields a pervasive influence on 21st century punk. Perhaps it is the ubiquity of Freeman’s followers that has caused Rancid to relegate him to a bit part on this and many other of their records. He does get a 16-bar solo in ‘Beauty Of The Pool Hall’ though.
But enough nit picking; to the songs. ‘Track Back’ is a minute long thrasher that introduces the album before ‘Ghost Of A Chance’ barges in. It sounds much better in it’s natural environment than it does in isolation on YouTube. The same cannot be said of the nostalgia fest on ‘Telegraph Avenue’. You have to credit the band for trying something different but this song fails to spark, and the gang vocal singalong sounds bored.
Nostalgia recurs on ‘Farewell Lola Blue’, and the less said about ‘Buddy’ the better, but ‘An Intimate Close Up of a Street Punk Troublemaker’, ‘Cold Cold Blood’ and ‘Where I’m Going’ are killer tunes that will sit comfortably in many a Rancid playlist. ‘Make It Out Alive’ reminisces in a different fashion; it’s a cousin of the Pennywise classic ‘Bro Hymn'. If you’re missing Status Quo’s electric output then have a listen to ‘Bovver Rock And Roll’ which finds the Californian punks aping the opening riff from ‘Sweet Caroline’ while ‘I Kept A Promise’ is pure Ramones.
It is a pity that the quality isn’t more consistent over the course of the album but, as with a few of their records since their ‘90s heyday, selective listening reveals about ten great tracks that get even better with repeated listens.