It looks more complicated onscreen than it is in reality. Singer/guitarist Lars Frederiksen sat down with his Rancid bandmate Tim Armstrong and wrote a batch of songs mostly about his youthful experiences in his hometown Campbell, CA. Frederiksen then recruited a group -- bassist Big Jay, drummer Scott Abels, and the ubiquitous Unknown Bastard on backing vocals -- and recorded the songs with Armstrong overseeing production duties. Obviously, stylistically, Bastards remains fairly close to the Rancid mothership. The change in rhythm section inevitably forces the group's sound to be more riff-driven, as Rancid bassist Matt Freeman isn't present to help carry the melody. Even so, at least four of the tracks would fit nicely within the main group's own back catalog. Least likely to make that cut, however, are the two cover songs: an almost jangly version of Billy Bragg's "To Have and Have Not" and the old Motown classic "Leavin' Here," which was previously resurrected by Motorhead. There's other surprises in store as well, such as the Western tinge of "Campbell, CA" and the hints of swampy slide guitar found in "Subterranean." All told, Bastards finds both Frederiksen and Armstrong writing a bit outside the box, just kicking back and kicking around new ideas. An old adage claims you can't ever go home again, but the guitarist isn't so much going home as recreating a sense of time, place, and mood. The album crackles with the exhilaration of early adulthood, when all things seem possible, and one can get away with anything via the virtues of youth alone, fed by heightened emotions, frustrations, and occasional lapses into hopelessness. It's a fine tribute to Frederiksen's old friend and comrade in arms, the late Ben, who provided the inspiration for this project.
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene