Music We Listen To, feat. Rancid
Genre: Punk Rock
We continue with our music curation series with East Bay legends Rancid.
When I first arrived at college in 1994, my roots in punk rock consisted of The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, and appreciation for the song “I Wanna be Sedated” by the Ramones, a punk band that I had once played in for two songs, and a general dislike for the Buzzcocks. My music tastes were distinctly NOT punk: I was still into The Black Crowes, who were still a rock band back then. I was into Grunge and Alternative, basically what played on Beavis and Butthead with some expansion past that canon (I owned two STP records, I’d pirated Nevermind, and In Utero, and Siamese Dream) I still listened to Zeppelin and Queen, and Guns and Roses. And I listened to Public Enemy and Digital Underground.
Additionally music was changing on TV- I knew “Come out and Play” by the Offspring pretty well. I distinctly remember Green Day’s Basket Case” being on TV during that time. We used to hang around at the co-ed dorm with MTV playing all night while we “threw cribbage”, until 3 and 4 in the morning. Girls would hang out with us and would occasionally sit in on our marathons, while they waited for Billy Joe Armstrong to start asking “Do you have the time to listen to me whine…” (and the guys waited for Sheryl Crow to tell us all she wants to do was have some fun… Those two songs are forever associated with Cribbage in my mind.) Remember, this was 1994, long before YouTube was invented.
All pretty standard faire for a dude my age growing up where I did. When I got to college, my good friend and brother Steve DiGioia was really into punk and he played a lot of it, and I got into many of the bands he played, because this was the first time I had been exposed to such a wide variety that kind of music. Hardcore bands like Sick of It All and Storm Troopers of Death, and Oi! bands like Sham 69. We went to shows at an old venue in Rapid City called the Twilight Zone. And then we got a radio show known as Ufa Kefa, where the first hour was PowWow music and the second hour was punk and Hard Core- Because of all that music diet, I learned the bands pretty quick. Steve was fully into punk music, and by the end of my first year in college, when I went into the Marine Corps, I was too.
Well, late 1994, I was watching MTV one day, and a video came on TV called “Salvation” by a punk band out of the bay area known as Rancid. I didn’t know who they were, I had no idea that I’d still be listening to their music more than 20 years later… I didn’t know anything about them, but one thing I DID know- this was something I don’t think my buddy Steve listened to. See- he was old school. The new sh-t coming out of California at that time was hardly punk. I think Steve dismissed this new discovery as “a bunch of poseurs” or some such thing. It completely rocked, and I couldn’t believe my punk friend wasn’t into it. It was kind of like a let down for me.
Rancid was at once pretty fundamental, as far as punk was concerned. Quick songs, pretty basic chord progression, fast and loud and bare bones. Just a bunch of distorted guitars, snappy drums, and gritty vocals. I thought there was something different about the way Rancid sounded than the way Green Day or the Offspring sounded. Or, for that matter, Bad Religion or the Buzzcocks or any of the Oi Bands or the NYHC stuff we were playing. So whenever the track came on the TV, I payed attention.
When I got out of boot camp at the end of August 1995, I immediately picked up Rancid’s “Let’s Go.” And I played the hell out of it. It was literally, the first punk rock tape I ever owned. I also acquired Rancid’s “Gun Cover”, their first LP, and a bootleg called “See you in the Pit” during that fall. Then “And out Come the Wolves” came out when I was in Japan, and that had a lot of ska songs on it, which were pretty typical of the overall ska revival which was going on then. “And Out Come the Wolves” introduced me to ska, and it also led me to Operation Ivy, and all that. When “Life Won’t Wait,” their next record came out, I was introduced to Buju Banton and Dancehall reggae (I had been exposed to the Roots Reggae sounds of Marley before, but had written that entirely off at the time, and only now came back to Reggae.) Rancid’s “Skull Cover” from 2000 was a hardcore punk record… and so on.
Many of the music tastes I have today were first acquired from Rancid’s music. There are a few which Rancid really had nothing to do with- the Cardigans or Portishead, for example. But I trace a lot of the stuff I listen to, ultimately back to a Rancid album first. Their music is sufficiently leftist for me to appreciate as social commentary, and it is just poppy enough to be some of the most accessible, but at the same time, authentic punk rock released since the 1990s began. They never recorded for a Major Label- opting instead to stick with indies.
Yeah, the Rancid folks are quite successful and quite well off, and it supposedly has dented some of their punk rock cred. But their status of Punk Legends is cemented- The have just released a 20th anniversary vinyl edition of “And Out Come the Wolves…” and as their lead song from “Let the Dominos fall” states, they are indeed the “Last One to Die.” (meanwhile, the composers of one of the best punk rock anthems of all time, “Panic Song” is nowadays releasing stuff like “Nightlife” with Billy Joe Armstrong’s girlfriend, apparently. Don’t listen to these two songs back to back unless you want to cry.)
And Tim Armstrong is now helping a new Generation pick up the banner and carry it forward. See, for example- the ska-punk band known as The Interruptors. Their lead singer may be a libertarian, and therefore, have politics which are opposed to the black-and-red politics of, like, Lars Fredriksen. But as they say- if you enjoy the music, you shouldn’t get hung up on what you think you know about someone…
And by the way, my friend Steve really got into Rancid just a bit later in his life. I am happy to have returned at least some of the favor.
So without further ado, allow me to present Rancid.
This is Music We Listen to. This is Rancid.