Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Elite of Just Alright - Indestructible

Rancid has always been a fairly polarizing band. Even when it comes to an album like ...And Out Come the Wolves, there will always be that group of people who dislike Rancid for their "sellout" behavior despite the fact that unlike some of their peers, such as Green Day, Bad Religion or The Offspring, Rancid only flirted with the idea of signing to a major label before deciding to stick with Epitaph (Epitaph's current status as an independent label is up for debate, but the 90's were a different time). It comes with the territory of being a snobby teenager- any punk band to have success, whether achieved independently or not, is automatically marked as a "sellout" band and then that image is just kind of committed to memory.

That said, Indestructible doesn't have the same kind of defense that ...And Out Come the Wolves has. This is because Indestructible, while technically released on Tim Armstrong's Hellcat Records, was actually distributed by Warner Bros. This helped to release the lead single, Fall Back Down, to wider audiences and Indestructible became the band's most successful (in terms of money) album. Not to mention that the music video for Fall Back Down featured cameos by Benji Madden, of Good Charlotte, and Kelly Osbourne. Naturally, people were upset by this. If Rancid's near-signing to a major and getting MTV airplay in the 90's was cause for calling the band "sellouts" then what chance did they stand with this album?

(Just to note, I am aware that Let the Dominoes Fall charted higher than Indestructible when it was released.)

And yet... contrary to how teen punks across the Internet reacted to Indestructible, reviews were mostly positive. This is probably because some of these songs are actually really good (or you know, at least really good when added into the rest of the band's discography). If there is anything that Rancid is good at, it's being able to blend and mix sounds, genre-hopping from track to track. It is the exact reason why ...And Out Come the Wolves was such a good album- the band was able to blend punk, rock and ska seamlessly and people loved the band for being able to do that. It's possible that maybe people just weren't expecting an album like Indestructible, especially after Rancid's second self-titled album and Lars Frederiksen's solo debut with the Bastards as both heavily recalled hardcore and street punk of the 80's and late 70's respectively. While those two albums are great examples of how well the band members could pull off punk rock (particularly the Bastards album), Indestructible was a return to showcasing the band's diversity, adding in new elements of pop rock and whatever the hell genre Arrested in Shanghai is (it's not really folk rock, although the lyrics do come off as pretentiously deep and the chorus does recall Dylan a little, so perhaps it's close).

Yes, I think that Indestructible is the successor to ...And Out Come the Wolves, if only in spirit. And that's a statement that I will stand by. Okay, so Fall Back Down was a fairly poppy number that got some airplay on Fuse (and maybe MTV2) and that's not very "punk" of them, but I find it really interesting that almost every negative thing I've heard about Indestructible is how terrible that one song is when there are eighteen other songs on the album. I'm not saying they're all winners (the 1-2 punch of Ghost Band and Tropical London is a bit overwhelming- I realize that getting a divorce can be a really painful process sometimes but that doesn't always mean that the pain will translate well into song), but this album is rather massive so to dismiss it based on the lead single is foolish.

For starters, the band shows that they can still write a song write a song that features heavy feedback and a thick bass on tracks such as Out of Control, Travis Bickle, Django and Roadblock, while also retaining their less frantic, but still rock 'n' roll tendencies on The Spirit of '87 and Born Frustrated. Indestructible is lacking in the ska department, although Red Hot Moon, while not quite Time Bomb part 2, would have been a much better first single, and they keys on Stand Your Ground are very Slackers-esque (probably because Vic Ruggiero played them). Album closer, Otherside is very lyrically close to the first the subject matter found on the first Bastards album while musically it takes a lot of cues from The Way I Feel (the last track on ...And Out Come the Wolves, for those of you who aren't in the know), even going as far as to borrow the na-na-na's.

Indestructible may not be Rancid's best album but it's a far cry from their worst effort. In fact, when paired alongside ...And Out Come the Wolves it makes a good starting point for those interested in becoming familiar with the band.

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