The way to approach a Rancid album in 2017 is very different to the way you would have approached one in 1997. You can no longer expect genius, and you need to figure out exactly what you need to make you happy. It’s not going to be And Out Come The Wolves… and after the disappointment of …Honor Is All We Know and Let The Dominoes Fall, merely good might be enough. A couple of great punk tracks could be all we need.
Well, if you are willing to accept that as your benchmark then Trouble Maker will do it for you. A brilliant album it is not, but more than one of these songs could slip seamlessly into the Rancid live set.
It arguably never gets better than the opening two punch of ‘Track Fast’ and ‘Ghost of a Chance’. They rip out of the speakers at a decent pace, and Tim Armstrong slurs his way through them in a way only he could. No one else can make sounding like you’ve just come off an all day session as cool as Armstrong. It’s a shame then that it’s followed up by the distinctly average ‘Telegraph Avenue’. A plodding track where Armstrong, so cool one minute ago, has suddenly descended into an annoying drunk uncle who won’t shut up.
There’s the framework of a good song on ‘An Intimate Close Up Of A Street Punk’, but they latch onto the one refrain and manage to run it into the ground despite the song only being two and a half minutes long. It’s far too easy to forgive them, though, because when they get it right, they get it so so right. ‘Farewell Lola Blue’ could be excused of a similar repetitiveness, but it’s delivered with a bite that will have venue staff across the world quaking in their boots. It’s Rancid at their punkiest and it’s glorious.
A big part of that forgiveness comes from the speed of the album. Rancid have never been ones to hang around and even with nineteen tracks Trouble Maker has a running time of under forty minutes. When the songs are in and out in under three minutes, it makes it all the easier to accept the missteps. You can ignore the meandering of ‘Buddy’ and the bizarre sound of ‘All American Neighbourhood’ when you’ve got them dropping ‘Bovver Rock and Roll’ with its old school R’n’R sound and the pool hall joy of the aptly named ‘Beauty of the Pool Hall’. When Rancid are truly swinging there are still few better.
Trouble Maker is not going to make you throw out your record collection and start again. It won’t even bother your top three Rancid albums. However, it does what it needs to do. If Rancid ever get round to touring the UK without bloody Green Day, no one is going to be devastated if a few of these songs find their way into their set. In fact, you might even be happy to hear tracks like ‘Make It Out Alive’ get an airing. If you are able to accept that that’s what we should expect from a Rancid album in 2017, then you’ll be just fine.