Armstrong and Frederiksen – is it a fair comparison to call them the Lennon and McCartney of modern American punk? Based on the evidence so far on ‘Honour Is All We Know’ the answers is a resounding yes. Much like the clarion call of Rancid‘s message and credo as a band, the maxim “together we stand divided we fall” can be just as easily applied to the band’s two main songwriters.
With his side project The Bastards, the swaggering Frederiksen penned a few punk rock classics but ultimately languished in a mid ground that could never reach the heady heights of Rancid’s finest output. Similarly, the sometime shambolic and slurring Armstrong stood like a rabbit in the headlights of solo performing, with his ill-fated TV show (yes, really) Tim Timebomb marking a questionable tangent, before a string of reworked and unreleased solo tracks appeared on Youtube.
Like all of the best pairings in music, when they’re together Armstrong and Frederiksen are the perfect storm of uncontainable energy, enthusiasm, songwriting skill, gritty realism, musical prowess and dogged determination. Honour Is All We Know finds them back at their best, notably on The Specials influenced ‘Evil’s My Friend’ which borrows heavily from Armstrong’s flagship Hellcat Records band and long-time collaborators The Aggrolites. Is this album another And Out Come The Wolves? A revolutionary punk release? Nope. Is it a really, really good Rancid album from a reinvigorated punk rock juggernaut? Yes, yes it is.
The title track is a buoyant middle-finger homage to the code of ethics and celtic influences that run like blood through the streets of their punk heritage, with the ever-present Matt Freeman lending a post-lung-cancer gravel to the vocals with his trademark basslines wandering uninhibited throughout. ‘A Power Inside’ is an interesting exercise in upbeat, major key songwriting which comes across as the sort of punk rock hymn more at home with Bad Religion’s atheist angst, but ultimately adds an intriguing midpoint amongst the more macho offerings.
By the time the closing chords of ‘Grave Digger’ ring out, it’s apparent that Honour… is a refreshing release from a band so deep into their career they could be forgiven for dropping the occasional generic clanger, but there’s enough here for fans new and old to grasp with open arms.
Welcome to the gang; in the words of Frederiksen: “You ain’t got nothing when you’re born to lose”
– Jamie Otsa
Venue: Honour Is All We Know
Support Band: Hellcat/Epitaph