Oh, look—a new Rancid album! What are the odds it’ll be exactly the same as their last few?
Yes, there is a bit of snark in that statement, but don’t read too much into it. The fact of the matter is that Rancid have earned the right to be like this now. You know the drill—seminal institution in punk; responsible for a couple of genuine classics in the ‘90s; fronted by genre lynchpin Tim Armstrong; it’s all the same as it was last time. So even if their last handful of releases have been Rancid resting on their laurels somewhat, they have earned it. And besides, the only people seeking out a new Rancid album are the ones who know exactly what they’re in for, to the letter. So here’s Tomorrow Never Comes, once again produced by Brett Gurewitz, once again crammed full of tracks without bloating its runtime too badly, and once again not moving the sonic needle by even an atom’s width. Yep, sure is a new Rancid album, alright!
To be fair, it’s not entirely indistinct. For one, it’s actually Rancid’s shortest album at just about 29 minutes. It’s also absent of any ska leanings, instead choosing to focus exclusively on straight-ahead punk. And…that’s kind of it. So maybe the differences aren’t what Tomorrow Never Comes hinges on the most, but despite that, Rancid have still got it. As far as ‘90s punk goes, they’re still hitting a decent watermark at keeping that sound authentic and recognisable. It doesn’t hurt when you’ve got a vocalist like Tim Armstrong in that regard, for whom the slurring cadence and lack of enunciation is really all part of the charm. And when he’s backed by the usual scruffed-up street-chorus on the likes of It’s The Road To Righteousness or Hellbound Train, that’s just classic Rancid right there.
Musically, it’s just the same faithfulness to their old ways, in a brand of punk that’s beaming with pride at how old-school it is. And so it should, because there’s really no need to change it up when there’s still as much energy behind it. Granted, a lot can be attributed to song lengths that routinely fall below even two minutes (as in, over half of the album), but there’s definitely a degree of pushing inside that from Rancid themselves. On the whole, Tomorrow Never Comes is a very pacey, quick-to-run album, dominated by its rattling guitars and percussion, and Matt Freeman’s ever-excellent bass-work for some texture and complexity within. And thus, it’s a natural fit for Rancid to punch through these songs without any need to prolong what they’re already so capable of reaching. Even on its longest song, the title track, a runtime of not even two-and-a-half minutes won’t have Dream Theater quaking in fear any time soon, but it’s arguably the perfect length for this band.
Of course, it goes without saying that, as good as Rancid are at emulating their classic selves, they aren’t matching up to it. Not that that breaks the trend of any of their releases for basically the last decade, and at least Tomorrow Never Comes isn’t substantially worse at all. This is still a perfectly solid Rancid album, branded with the asterisk of really being for diehards only at this point. If you’re looking for the absolute peak of Rancid, you aren’t finding that here; more often, they provide a perfectly competent continuation of the groundwork they laid in their heyday, like with Devil In Disguise or Magnificent Rogue. But there’s also a bit here that kind of just sinks into the background, as one might expect from 16 fairly brief tracks without much variety to them overall. There’s never a moment where the weight of that gets too much to bear—Rancid’s love of speed really is their main saving grace—but if this sort of thing isn’t already hooked into your veins, that won’t change with this one.
But, like…who expected it to? For where Rancid are and for what they’ve achieved, it’s perfectly acceptable to put out an album like this, as it has been the last few times they’ve done basically the same thing. Besides, it’s still good, with all the hallmarks that have firmed their longevity still more or less intact. Sure, said longevity mightn’t apply to this album in specific, but the feel and performance calibre certainly does. It’s no different to every other one of the million punk bands of this vintage, whose current M.O. is to keep putting out solid work by cribbing from their old notes. So yeah, it is a new Rancid album, and while they keep sticking to this, that’ll always be perfectly fine.
For fans of: Rancid, every other similar ‘90s punk band
‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ by Rancid is released on 2nd June on Hellcat Records / Epitaph Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall