Trouble Maker

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When they recorded their ninth album, Trouble Maker, the venerable punks of Rancid had been working together (give or take a drummer) as a band for 25 years. It would follow that maybe the record would be nostalgic, and it is. Both lyrically and musically, the 19 songs have the blurry feel of old Polaroids, as the bandmembers stick to their guns and dish out tales of past glories. Tim Armstrong's weatherbeaten vocals are made for the task; his marbled crooning on "Telegraph Avenue" and ragged shouting on "An Intimate Close Up of a Street Punk Trouble Maker" are like flip sides of the same classic punk coin. He and the rest of the band crank out very Rancid-sounding punk, all guitar riffs and pounding drums, with a side or two of ska ("Where I'm Going") and glammy heavy metal ("Say Goodbye to Our Heroes") for good measure. Trouble Maker is exactly what a Rancid fan would expect a Rancid album to sound like, which is both a blessing and a curse. The former because if classic Rancid is what you need to fulfill your punk rock longings, as always they deliver the requisite gutter chants, spiky attitude, and spit-covered microphones. The latter because at this point the Rancid sound can't help but feel a little too safe and sanitized, especially given the sparkling production Brett Gurewitz gives to the album. It may be a little late in the game to expect the band to do anything but give the fans exactly what they want, or what the band thinks they want, but it's not too much to ask for songs that have a bit less studio gloss and a little more fire and grit. Not too much to hope for more songs with the heart of "Ruby Soho," the fury of anything from their self-titled 2000 album, or the grand pop ambitions of Let the Dominoes Fall, and fewer standard-issue songs like "Ghost of a Chance" and "Make It Out Alive," which come off like lazy clich├ęs set to the same old trad punk beat. Like their disappointing 2014 album ...Honor Is All We Know, Trouble Maker is the sound of a band going through the motions, telling the same stories over and over, bashing out the same riffs, and ultimately not connecting any punches.

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