For years I was the biggest Rancid fan. The first record I didn’t buy on its release date was B-Sides & C-Sides, and that’s because I already had the songs. I was an unapologetic completest. As the post-2000 records have been coming, I became an apologetic completest. I bought the double album version of Let the Dominoes Fall and spun it a fair amount that first month…but rarely since.
When October 2014 came with promise of the new Honor Is All We Know, I didn’t bother to get it right away. I’d heard a version of the song via Tim’s one-a-day project and, well, it’s another new Rancid song with “we” in the title. That right there sums up where things have gone wrong. Where, for years, the band’s strength was in their storytelling lyricism, mixing autobiographical with fictional tales of urban blight, recent records have revolved more heavily along the “we’re still here” theme. The band that was classified as street punk with an asterisk, has now become that genre to a fault.
While the songs on Honor Is All We Know are often catchy—so catchy you can sing along on first listen—they aren’t really about anything at all. “Power Inside,” “The Streets,” and “Grave Digger” are straight-up shout-along up the punx fare that gets cornball in its repetition. There are a few breakthrough moments, such as the title track, which begins with an impressive dual guitar lead is the most musically interesting song on the record, despite the tired self-referential lyrics, and the nice ska beat behind “Evil’s My Friend” is another song to get the party started—again, until the refrain hits. Think “Brixton” minus the insight. There are some nice moments in “Collision Course” as well, with a more driven sound and some urgency from Lars Frederiksen’s vocals. However, those breakthrough moments over the 14-song record are a glimpse through the clouds, and the lyrics in all of them bring it down.
“Evil Is My Friend”? ‘Nuff said. “Grave Digger” only has barely over 7 words in 2:20 (Grave digger/digging all the way down). The band that wrote “Radio,” “Detroit,” “Roots Radicals,” “Time Bomb,” and so many more interesting character pieces, are instead now chanting “In the streets you’re never alone,” (“In the Streets”) and it’s hard to take it seriously.
Oddly, those early records were often written in months and recorded in days, and they feel like more complete pieces. This record took 5 years to come out, including a 1 year delay, but many of the lyrics feel like they were penned in studio.
Like the stencil mailer that came some two decades ago promoting ...And Out Come the Wolves, there is a defined brand and shape here, but the inside is hollow and needs more color.
5.1 / 10
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