Rancid, ‘Indestructible’ (Hellcat)
Back in 1993, almost eight years after the Clash sputtered to a close, Rancid released their self-titled debut, which exhumed the Clash’s ultra-potent punk rock and shocked it back to life.Indestructible is Rancid’s sixth album, and by rights the band should sound like laughable necrophiles. But they don’t. And on the album’s surging title track, Tim Armstrong proclaims, “I keep listening to that great Joe Strummer!” as drummer Brett Reed amps up the skinhead stomp.
It’s been a decade, but Rancid still hear an ideal in the music of the Clash (who began imploding when Strummer booted Mic kJones from the band on ideological grounds) that the Clash themselves lost sight of that a rock band can apply their progressive politics to their own internal workings and create a powerful, if flawed, utopia. The proof is in the pronouns. Punk rock has produced plenty of first-person songs, usually about how “I” will rise above, as well as second-person songs about how “you” are headed for a fall.Indestructible’s “Fall Back Down” is a rare amalgam of both perspectives. “If I fall back down /You’re gonna help me back up again,” goes the football-chant chorus. After ten years, Rancid’s still-rock-solid kinship is evident in their lock-step chemistry–the way they can tweak a standard 2 Tone ska beat, throwin an organ lick and skewed harmonies, and come out with a wholly original gem like “Red Hot Moon.”
Indestructible could use a little more of the crazed stylistic abandon of Transplants, Armstrong’s hip-hop-informed side project. But what keeps Rancid sounding alive is their politics (although not in a direct way). When Armstrong adopts the voice of a Chinese dissident and talks about his “poetry” saving him, what keeps you from cringing is the way he and guitarist Lars Frederiksen sell the line: by scraping their picks down the strings, making harmony out of a discordant howl.