Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks #29: Rancid- …And Out Come The Wolves

Posted: June 23, 2016 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

This pick shouldn’t really need an introduction, and it for the most part reminds me of how long I’ve been writing this column. …And out Come the Wolves turned twenty last year and I figured it’d be a good idea to celebrate that anniversary, but now I’m half a year late. I don’t know if there is much to say about the band, Rancid, except that they were started in Berkeley, California in 1991, by Operation Ivy (who will get their own pick in the future), Generator, Downfall and Dance Hall Crashers members Matt Freeman and Tim Armstrong. Lars Frederiksen joined the band in 1994. They’ve had two drummers; Brett Reed and Brenden Steineckert, the latter being their current drummer. I remember as a kid seeing their albums in record shops, but I had no idea how they sounded like. I knew Tim from his other side project the Transplants and for doing guest vocals on Box Car Racer’s “Cat Like Thief”. When I heard “Fall Back Down” on television, I remember thinking, “Oh, it’s that guy”. This was about the same time I started getting into NOFX and I would always compare the two bands, but I figured out NOFX’s “Olympia, WA” was the best song from either. Little did I know that it was a Rancid cover. The first Rancid album I bought was Life Won’t Wait in the record shop Avalanche in Edinburgh in my super punk grand tour in 2004. The second album I bought was actually Wolves, at a record store in Palma, Spain on holiday in the summer of 05. I remember playing it for my parents and I remember being excited about the album in the heat. The following fall I started to get more and more into Rancid and bought Let’s Go and Indestructible at the record store in Stavanger and bought the self-titled from 2000 in Malmö, Sweden.  It actually took me four years before buying more Rancid albums, I got Let the Dominos Fall around the time it was released  in 2009 and the self-titled from 1993 on vinyl in October the same year. I’ve always had an endless debate with myself (and others) whether their best album is Let’s Go or …And out Come the Wolves, I’m still a bit undecided, but Wolves definitely fits more for the column.

…And out Come the Wolves was released August 22 1995 on Epitaph records. It was produced by Jerry Finn and Rancid. It’s one of the first big albums that Finn produced. The album cover is a dude with a Mohawk sitting in a staircase with his head in his lap, similar to the classic Minor Threat picture (used on several releases like the self-titled compilation and the Complete Discography). It went platinum in 2004. While Green Day’s Dookie took Punk Rock to the mainstream, Rancid definitely took the “punk rock” look to the mainstream, at least in the US. Mohawks and studded jackets on MTV? Wow. The album is also quite dominated by Lars Frederiksen, and there are no songs on the album with Matt Freeman on lead vocals.

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  1. “Maxwell Murder”: I have mixed feelings about this opening track. It’s a fast and aggressive opener, and honestly a pretty good song. I definitely think it’s the weakest track on the album, and it annoys me to pieces when some technical music lover talks about how that bass solo is great. In spite of this, the lyrics are kind of weird. It seems to be about a drug dealer, and it’s using the UK emergency number rather than the American. Maybe the meaning of the song is that drug dealers may not be “Jack the Ripper”’s, but are also murderers? It could also be a reference to the Beatles’ “Maxwell Silver Hammer”. I checked songmeanings.com, people seemed to say the same thing.
  1. “The 11th Hour”: The second song, “The 11th Hour” is when the album really begins for me. The expression “the 11th hour” is describing the time right before a deadline or an important event. The song starts out like a Clash song and then there comes a little guitar lead that reminds me of the Replacements song “Nowhere Is My Home”. The lyrics, to me, are about depression and the narrator is talking to a girl, who is dealing with depression, and telling her that she is the one who can do something about her state of mind. It ends with the narrator talking about their own depression and there are references to the Specials (“Concrete Jungle”) and Elvis Costello (“My Aim Is True”). It’s also possible that the last verse is seen from the girl’s point of view. The song was co-written with Eric Dinn from the Uptones. He also co-wrote “Outta My Mind” from the first Self-titled and “Name” from Let’s Go.
  2. “Roots Radicals”: The third song, “Roots Radicals” was the first single from the album. The fantastic thing about the song is that it’s basically about riding the bus, like much of Rancid’s catalog. The song tells the story of how Lars’ life changed on this bus ride. Maybe this ride was his trip to Edinburgh, who knows? The song has lots of references to punk rock and reggae music. The chorus “Give ‘em the boot” (a pun on actual boots, and getting the boot) is also a compilation Tim’s record label Hellcat put out. The other references are to Desmond Dekker and the title is a reference to Jimmy Cliff, as well as Bunny Wailer. Ben Zanatto is a friend of Lars, who died of an overdose in 1999, he was also part of the “Skunx” movement (a mix of Skinheads and Punx). Moon stomping is a reference to Symarip great reggae song (“Skinhead Moonstomp”) about stomping to let the man on the moon hear it and it has become a popular dance for skinheads. Even with all the reggae references, the song is pretty much straight up Punk Rock. They played it live on Saturday Night Live 18th of November 1995. The single version was a different recording, as they re-recorded it for the album.
  3. “Time Bomb”: The second single was “Time Bomb”, that same as “Roots Radicals” also references reggae and Ska culture is also a Ska song. It’s probably become their most famous song. I remember it being played on motherfucking Gilmore Girls. Like “Maxwell Murder” it’s a song that has become a catchy, singalong track, but the meaning is actually quite sad. “Time Bomb” tells the tale of a kid who fits the typical stereotype of the rude boy, but he has gone through trouble all his life and he doesn’t know how to deal with the world and in the end he gets shot. The song also became a hit on the modern rock charts. It reached number 8.
  4. “Olympia, WA”: As I’ve said I used to really like the NOFX cover of  “Olympia WA” and I don’t know if I actually heard the Rancid version before I bought Wolves. I remember listening to it and thinking it sounded like a football song or a sport’s anthem. The singalong chorus always brings a smile on my face. At the time I was 15 and I remember wanting to start smoking cigarettes or other bad habits, I could hide from my parents. As much as the song might remind me a bit of hooligans starting fights with supporters from other teams (like the Business or Cockney Rejects or something), it’s actually a love song. Tim is singing about hanging out with Lars, and I interpret it as him having is heart broken or missing someone and feeling like the devil and him and Lars hang out with Puerto Rican girls at the funhouse in New York playing a lonely pinball machine. I feel like the imagery of the pinball machine shows Tim’s feelings, being in a house full of fun, but still feeling lonely. The chorus is about how he is in New York, but longing to be in Olympia, Washington. The loneliness he feels is even more present in the last two verses. The second verse ends with him watching the thousands come home from work, in the third he just concludes; “I don’t wanna be alone again”.
  1. “Lock, Step and Gone”: I would say that the five first songs of the album are all quite iconic and important in punk rock history. Then it feels alright when the sixth song isn’t that iconic, but is still quite a great song. The song has kind of a rock n’ roll feeling to it. The lyrics are also quite simple, describing a place that once had lots of stuff happening, but has no become dead.
  2. “Junkie Man”: When debating whether or not Wolves is a perfect album, everyone usually have a few songs they can’t stand on the album, “Junkie Man” is one of them, but I’ve always loved the song actually, I appreciate it more than I appreciate the bass doodlings of “Maxwell Murder”. I guess I can understand why people are annoyed with it. The song lyrics are mostly quite simple and about a junkie man and how substance abuse is ruining his life. Maybe the part that rubs a lot of people the wrong way, is the spoken word part spoken and written by poet and author Jim Caroll. I actually think it’s a pretty cool addition to the song and I love the “transistor” and “transparency” puns. I found an MTV article on Caroll’s contribution and I learned from it that they actually recorded forty songs for the album, as if nineteen wasn’t enough!
  3. “Listed M.I.A”: A catchy as hell song, that is about running away from everyone and everything and become missing in action. Not only is it catchy and groovy, it also happens to rhyme “had it”, not only with “maggots” and “faggot”, but “habit”, as well. It also namedrops Oakland, well done!
  4. “Ruby Soho”: The third single from the album was “Ruby Soho”, also quite a hit on the modern rock charts, charting at #13. According to Wikipedia it was released only two days after “Time Bomb” (on November 3). Billboard says “Time Bomb” charted in October, and “Ruby Soho” charted in January, I wonder what Wikipedia have to say in their defense! Like the two other singles, we won’t escape the reggae references in this song either. The opening line is “Echoes of reggae coming through my bedroom wall”. When I first heard the song, I thought it was kind of catchy, but silly, especially the chorus, but it’s actually a really great song. I think the lyrics are way more sophisticated than one would expect from the song title. I think the lyrics are beautiful, fragile, descriptive and even poetic. It also tells a good story from an interesting narrative and embraces two levels of loneliness. The narrator is sitting alone in their room, feeling alone listening to a break up going on at a party next door, realizing they aren’t able to do anything about it. We get to know the name of the girl (Ruby Soho), but not the dude who is leaving her. I always feel a lump in my throat every time I hear the third verse, “Her lover’s in the distance/ As she wipes a tear from her eye/ Ruby’s fading out, she disappears, it’s time,/ Time to say goodbye”. Jimmy Cliff did a cover of the song, and he won a Grammy! And Tim produced it. It’s also on both Guitar Hero and Rock Band.
  5. “Daly City Train”: Tim spent seven years battling an alcohol problem (Let’s Go’s “7 Years Down” deals with this), Lars used to have heavy drug problems as well. It seems a lot of their friends have gone in similar paths, and a lot of Rancid’s songs are used to tell the stories of these friends. “Daly City Train” is another reggae song and it also has an awesome surf-guitar. The song is about someone named Jackyl, that I’ve had trouble finding actual information on, except that he was a friend of the band (he is also mentioned in “Rats in the Hallway”). Tim describes him as an angel, and a free bird and someone who happens to be himself even in this awful world, especially in the situation he found himself in. “Some men are in prison even though they walk the streets at night/ Other men who got the lockdown are free as a bird in flight” These lyrics makes you think, huh?
  6. “Journey to the End of the East Bay”: I have no idea if the title is a reference to Ted Nugent, but if it is, I’ll have to ask, why? Why the fuck would anyone reference Ted Nugent? Anyways, this song is a tribute to the East Bay and Matt and Tim’s old band Operation Ivy (“Started in ’87, ended in ’89”). Like Green Day’s “Welcome to Paradise”, FIY also about the East Bay, it talks about both sides of the coin when it comes to the area. It also shows the dangers of romanticizing an area, as a fellow named Mattie is coming to the place from New Orleans and expects it to be a Mecca, after three months he can’t handle it anymore and goes back to the big easy.
  7. “She’s Automatic”: Is a song sung by Lars, it’s a simple little love song about new found romance. I think it’s a great little track, among all the other classic, it might seem like a filler, but I think it’s quite a good song on its own.
  8. “Old Friend”: My favorite Rancid is probably “Old Friend”, I’ve always found the song to be catchy and I’ve always loved the instrumentation in it. The song is a straight up Ska song with a rad organ. The song’s chord progression is the classic “Pop punk progression” used in Toto’s “Africa”, The Beatles’ “Let It Be”, Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” and like every Blink-182 song. And like many of the songs I’ve talked about in this article, there is a sore and sad meaning to an otherwise catchy song. The song also uses the trope of prosopopoeia, and personifies heartache as an old friend. The protagonist is going through a break up and is lost in Cleveland full of regret and in the loss of all hope. I always get chills down my spine in the “somewhere in America” verse, because sometimes when things seem the worst, a memory from when things worked out is your only hope. In the end of the song, the protagonist also fears being robbed by people preying on someone who is already down, and almost broke, the protagonist figures that someone can rob them and take their money or their time, but their heart is already robbed and gone away.
  9. “Disorder and Disarray”: Another catchy song that don’t really stand out in the line of great songs is “Disorder and Disarray”, I have no idea what the song is about, but I often feel like it’s a reference to the Beatles’ “The Ballad of John and Yoko” because of the crucifixion. Maybe it’s another song about drugs. And it’s another song about the bus too. Public transport, yay!
  10. “The War’s End”: Another song that is mentioned as “the bad song on the album” along with “Junkie Man” is “The War’s End”, something I don’t get at all. I think it’s a fantastic song and I especially love the live version where Lars tries to make it sound like a Billy Bragg song, they also namedrop Bragg in the song. In fact, I remember Lauren from the Measure SA talked about the song on the classic Rocket to Russia show back in 2009 and also talked about “Ideology” and it made me become a huge Billy Bragg fan. Lars also covered another Bragg song “To Have and Not to Have” with his side project Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards. “The War’s End” is about a young boy named Sammy who is a punk rocker and is always in a “war” with his mother, and then decides to run away.
  1. “You Don’t Care Nothin’”: The Pop Punk progression madness doesn’t stop, and neither does the Pop Punk! The lyrics to this double negative heartache fest, sound like they could be straight out of a 90’s Mutant Pop record. The song is about a lady named Jenny deMilo who doesn’t seem to care about the protagonist in the song.
  2. “As Wicked”: A song that I always found great and that also scared me at the same time is “As Wicked”, like so many songs on the record there is sadness and melancholia hidden inside the singalong punk music. The lyrics remind me of old folk lyrics like Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain Is A-Gonna Come” and Tom Paxton’s “A Rumblin’ in the Land”. The narrator is observing different people of all ages, and he hears stories of loneliness, death and poverty, and all these stories adds up to the idea that something scary is about to come.
  3. “Avenues and Alleyways”: This is totally punk so there had to be an Oi! Song on the record. Oi! Is a genre that has gotten a bad rap, and is closely related to RAC and racism. Therefore, it might be important to have bands like the Oppressed and make anti-fascist Oi! Music to get away that stigma from the genre. “Avenues and Alleyways” is an Oi! Song about standing together against racism. Lars sings “He’s a different color, but we’re the same kid/ I treatedd him like my brother, he treats me like his”.
  4. “The Way I feel”: I wrote a song called “The Way I Feel” once, so I was always excited for this song, and it’s definitely one of the greatest closers in punk history. I’ve always felt there was something Irish and Pogues-esque about the song. The song is about someone moving up the social ladder and the way it affects their former friends. The best part of the song is definitely the chorus that just goes “nananananananananananananana”, sometimes the simples words are the best ones! I feel like they tried to re-write the song for Indestructible (Wolves II?) in “Otherside”.

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The album still stands as one of the strongest Punk Rock classics, probably ever and continues to inspire and I also think a lot of the PunX have somehow forgotten how neglected that it was a somewhat mainstream MTV album like they’ve done with the Sex Pistols and all those bands. Another classic we’ll be revising next time is Death by Television by The Lillingtons.

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Comments
  1. Gregory J. Griess says:

    U do know who Olympia, WA is about, right? Kathleen Hanna. Tim and her use to date.

  2. Gregory J. Griess says:

    U do know who Olympia, WA is about? Kathleen Hanna. Tim and her use to date.

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