Punk Is Dead, And It’s Rancid Too: A Love Story

Ed. Note: Our “Love Story” feature encourages writers to tell the story behind their love for their favorite movie, music, or television show. Today, Jeremy writes about Rancid’s album RANCID (2000).

Here’s a fun fact you can share the next time there’s a lull around the water cooler: I like punk rock.

As best as I can recall, it all started with The Offspring’s Smash, in 1994. Boy, did I like that album. And, sure, as a twelve-year-old, the long string of expletives in “Bad Habit” was certainly one of the record’s biggest draws for me. But I liked the music, too. I played that album over and over, and eventually found The Offspring’s first two albums and played those over and over, and I also got Green Day’s Dookie, and I got Rancid’s …And Out Come the Wolves the next year. That was punk rock to me. To other folks at that time, folks with more refined tastes, I’m sure those records were putrid pop punk that gave punk a bad name; for them, punk had died years before. I should know because I became one of those people six years later. But here’s the thing: when I was in college and had convinced myself that the only bands worth listening to were the ones that no one else I knew had heard of, it was easy to forget that when you’re just a twelve-year-old kid living in the suburbs without the internet and only Best Buy and Columbia House available for purchasing music, punk rock is what you’re told punk rock is. And you can either enjoy it and keep listening to it, or not, and stop. I really enjoyed it.

And, yes, I did eventually grow up into a college-bound snob with a developing taste for lesser- and lesser-known bands, especially in the punk genre. But can we pause for a moment and defend pretentious eighteen-year-old Jeremy? Let’s take a step back and recall what was happening with mainstream punk rock as we entered the year 2000. Green Day had last released Nimrod, in 1997. Perhaps you remember one if its singles, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”? Yeah, you do. The Offspring had released an album in 1998 called Americana. Do you remember its single, “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)”? Yeah, you sure do. And what new acts had these bands inspired? You may recall that Blink 182’s Enema of the State came out in 1999, while New Found Glory’s first two albums were in 1999 and 2000. Meanwhile Good Charlotte and Avril Lavigne were peaking their raccoon eyes just over the horizon. And, of course, in the even mainer stream of rock: Nickelback and Creed alternated albums each year from 1996 to 1999. You can tell me that popular rock didn’t nosedive from the mid-90s to the late 90s, but I won’t believe you, and I might stop being your friend.

Why am I telling you all of this? Why am I setting the popular punk table for the year 2000? So that I can try to explain to you that, for me, Rancid had yanked out the tablecloth and used it to craft a tattered Jolly Roger when they released Rancid that year. (That metaphor made me wince, too. Deal with it.)

File:Rancid - Rancid (2000) cover.jpg

What was Rancid? It was their fifth album, their second self-titled, and their first released on Tim Armstrong’s own label, Hellcat. In light of my history with punk rock to that point, after first getting excited about what I was earing as a youngster in the mid-90s, then disappointed as I grew up (insomuch as you can call eighteen grown up) and the sounds seem to change and drift further and further into the mainstream, Rancid was a glorious punk-rock culmination. A punkulmination. It was a middle finger to the trend of popular rock at the turn of the century (“I hate your band, you understand? / You got no passion, it’s all fashion”).

What is Rancid even after all this time? It’s political, personal, gritty, and beautiful. It’s 22 songs in 38.5 minutes. It’s screaming, guitar-wailing, bass-picking mayhem, guided carefully by four skilled musicians. Its liner notes unfold into a poster with all of the lyrics hand-written in a giant beat-generation-style paragraph, with the return of their signature “see ya in the pit” at the bottom. It’s (weirdly) the punk manifestation of the Beastie Boys when they were at their best. It’s a manic collection of references, from historical figures to war-torn African nations to ye olde literature to Hollywood.

It’s smarter than most people will realize and sillier than most fans will admit, including me. Take “Meteor of War,” whose chorus I mistook for the longest time as “JUMP AROUND!” (silly); eventually I discovered the chorus is actually “John Brown!” In case you’re like me and did not know this, John Brown was the famously executed abolitionist, named the Meteor of War by Herman Melville (smart). PUNK ROCK!!

It’s Rancid, and it’s RANCID, and it’s rancid. It’s the perfect punk album, and I love it.

Read more from Jeremy here and on Twitter: @jereminate.