Rancid

...Honor Is All We Know

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Rancid took five years off after the release of their 2009 album, Let the Dominoes Fall. Well, not really. They toured a bunch for that album and Tim Armstrong spent seemingly every waking hour of the span writing and recording songs under the name Tim Timebomb. Five years without a Rancid album was a long time, though, and it led to speculation when the album was announced as to its direction. Would they continue the sonic experiments and more mature outlook of Let the Dominoes Fall or would they swing back to basics like they did on 2000's self-titled furious blast of punk attitude? The answer isn't as simple as that. Rancid definitely abandon any pretense at making their version of Sandinista!, and they don't recapture their raging fire either. To keep going with Clash analogies (which is what one has to do with Rancid), ...Honor Is All We Know comes perilously close to being their Cut the Crap. They didn't lose any members, but what they seem to have lost is their reason for existing. Apart from a couple of rousingly fun songs that come close to being on par with previous high points (the pounding soul-punk of "Malfunction," the hopping "Collision Course"), the album is an overly clean, overly simplistic, and weirdness-free listen that sounds like bandmembers making an album because that's what they need to do to keep their families fed. That's a noble cause for them, but it doesn't make for an inspiring album for the rest of their fans. Filled with songs that replace thoughts with slogans and compelling stories with empty boasts, delivered by performances that feel tame, Honor is a misfire from the very start. "Back Where I Belong" kicks things off with a follow-the-bouncing-ball singalong and feels like shallow myth-making, with the guys trading off vocals throughout. They started doing this on the last record and it's even more pronounced here. Either Armstrong stepped back voluntarily or the other guys forced their way in -- either way, keeping Tim on the sidelines is a bad idea. His wobbly vocals are the only thing that gives the record any sincerity and humanity. Even then, his cracked throat can only do so much when the lyrics are so formulaic and the sounds are so processed. Honor is the first album where Rancid sound obvious, like on the heavy ska "Everybody's Sufferin'," where the lyrics about how everybody's suffering are delivered in cornball Jamaican accents. It's the first time they sound empty, too, like they're going through the motions with little or no passion driving them. It's a shame, because to this point they were a pretty great band that you could count on to be, if not original all the time, at least 100% committed at all times-percent or so, and that's just not good enough.

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