10 Best Rancid Songs
Rancid know how to pack an album. Each of the band’s seven full-length releases has roughly 20 songs, and they typically clock in at more than an hour. And while not every song in the Berkeley punks’ immense discography is a classic, they’ve managed to amass a deep list of hits that are gospel to punks all over the world. To get a sense of just how much A-list material the band has, consider this: They recently released a vinyl box set called ‘Rancid Essentials’ that includes 46 7-inch records. You read that correctly: 46. Of the dozens and dozens of songs in their catalog, here are the 10 Best Rancid Songs.
Although Rancid are known primarily as a punk band, they also have a tendency to throw elements of ska into the mix, a likely byproduct of Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman’s previous work in legendary punk-ska band Operation Ivy. This bleeds through on ‘Timebomb,’ No. 10 on our list of Best Rancid Songs, which features a more upbeat ska sound.
While most Rancid songs come off like primal screams, ‘Sidekick’ showcases of co-frontman Tim Armstrong’s more nuanced storytelling abilities. The song follows Wolverine, an imagined vigilante superhero, fighting for the rights of Oakland’s squatters.
Rancid’s 1998 album ‘Life Won’t Wait’ tends to get overshadowed by the band’s previous three powerhouse releases, but there’s a lot going on with this record. Case in point: ‘Bloodclot.’ There’s a good deal of musicality in the song, but it remains simple and powerful, thanks to those repeated shouts of punk’s magic words: “Hey! Ho!”
Rancid know how to kick off an album. The opener on 1994’s ‘Let’s Go’ builds up with a few seconds of feedback before the band pounds in with chants of “Hey!” It is one of the better-known openers on a punk album, and that lands it at No. 7 on our list of the 10 Best Rancid Songs.
‘It’s Quite Alright’
Rancid’s self-titled 2000 album was, in a word, raw. It was heavier, angrier and faster than the band’s previous work, and Tim’s voice sounds like it’s been raked over the coals a few times. There are plenty of songs that illustrate this point — check out ‘Poison,’ ‘Blackhawk Down,’ or ‘Antennas,’ the band’s middle finger to their home state of California — but ‘It’s Quite Alright’ is a great example of how Rancid can go harder but still make catchy songs.
Another great example of Rancid kicking off an album with a bang. On ‘Maxwell Murder,’ the opening track on ‘…And Out Come the Wolves,’ the band wastes no time jumping right into its furious delivery. Tim Armstrong’s verse vocals are so speedy and mush-mouthed that they’re borderline unintelligible, but Lars Frederikson’s shouting of the chorus, “Dial 9-9-9 if you really want the truth!” brings ‘Maxwell Murder’ back to being a fun song to sing along to. And then there’s Matt Freeman’s racing solo, perhaps the nimble-fingered bassist’s finest moment.
Speaking of Freeman, his playing is one of Rancid’s distinguishing characteristics. Simply put, his bass lines are completely unlike those heard on most punk records, and while most punk bassists will simply back the guitar chords, Freeman meanders all over the place, busting out scales and arpeggios. ‘Ruby Soho,’ no. 4 on our list of the Best Rancid Songs, kicks off with a classic Freeman bass line. Songs like this are why a generation of young punks were more interested in picking up a bass than learning guitar chords.
Fun fact: Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong helped write No. 3 on our list of the 10 Best Rancid Songs. That explains why ‘Radio’ sounds a bit poppier and has more of a sing-along quality than some of the other songs on ‘Let’s Go.’ “When I got the music,” Tim sings, delivering nothing short of an anthem, “I got a place to go.”
This song is Rancid’s tribute to roots reggae, a politically minded subgenre popular in the ’70s. The lyric that sticks out for most punks is “Give ‘em the boot,” a line that would become the title for a series of compilation albums released by Hellcat Records, a label headed by Tim Armstrong. ‘Roots Radicals,’ like ‘Time Bomb,’ garnered some MTV love, and for a while there, Tim and the gang brought mohawks and spray-painted clothes to the masses.
‘Salvation’ earns its spot at the top of our 10 Best Rancid Songs list due to its role in single-handedly shaping punk rock in the ’90s. The song brought Rancid its first taste of commercial success, reaching No. 21 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, and its video was often featured on MTV in the mid-’90s. What ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ did for grunge, ‘Salvation’ did for punk resurgence, albeit on a smaller scale. For thousands of kids, it was an eye-opening first look into punk culture. Seeing Tim Armstrong’s foot-tall mohawk and Lars Frederikson’s tattooed knuckles made a whole new generation of kids say, “That is what I want to do.” And thus, a million new punk bands were formed.