For those who are unfamiliar with East Coast cuisine, the cheesesteak is a high-cholesterol, high-fat, artery-clogging delicacy that is unique to the Philadelphia area. Cheesesteaks are as a much a part of Philly culture as the Liberty Bell, Gamble & Huff, rowhouses, the Mummers Parade, and Dr. J, and although people from other parts of the United States sometimes attempt to make cheesesteaks, the end result is usually a typical steak sandwich instead of an authentic Philly cheesesteak. This CD is titled The Cheesesteak Years because it documents Rancid Vat's seven-year stay in Philly. Originally from Portland, OR, the veteran punk/metal band moved to Pennsylvania's largest city in 1994, and in 2001, Rancid Vat relocated again -- this time to San Marcos, TX. On The Cheesesteak Years (which was assembled by the Philly-based Steel Cage Records in 2002), original members Phil "The Whiskey Rebel" Irwin (bass) and Marla Vee (guitar) are joined by three people who didn't come onboard until Rancid Vat's Philly period: the Cosmic Commander of Wrestling (aka Cosmo) (lead vocals), Jimmy Satan (guitar), and Eric Perfect (drums). The songs on this CD (some of them previously unreleased) span 1995-2000, and for the most part, they're memorable. In fact, tracks like "Loser Leave Town," "Old People," and "Sucker Punch" are state-of-the-art Rancid Vat -- rude, obnoxious, sneering, in your face, and totally inspired. Creatively, Philly often seemed to bring about the best in Rancid Vat, and anyone who has lived in that area can't miss the Quaker Town references on "Hostile City U.S.A." and "Mummer Massacre." Not every track is a gem, but more often than not, The Cheesesteak Years paints an exciting, if imperfect, picture of Rancid Vat's Philadelphia period.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson