When Rancid Fired on All Cylinders With ‘…And Out Come the Wolves’
The year was 1995, and major labels were sniffing around California for their "next big thing." Grunge had reinvigorated interest in dirty kids playing loud guitars, and a few punk bands started making waves on MTV and the radio. Working-class punks Rancid stood atop a mountain and looked out at the riches all of the major labels were offering them. And Rancid said, "No, thank you."
A year earlier, the Warped Tour kicked off and was a huge success. Major labels began picking up little punk bands and plunging big money into punk scenes everywhere. Two other California groups, Green Day and the Offspring, exploded onto the mainstream and began taking over the biggest music outlets.
By then, Rancid had carved out their own slice of the punk arena. Their first two records, released by Epitaph, were popular enough that when they decided to start work on their third album, they discovered they had options that hadn't existed for them before.
Meanwhile, the punk revival of the late '90s was splitting in two. You had your heavy pop-punk bands like Green Day and the Offspring, and then you had the ska revival as America's music-consuming masses, always late to the party, rediscovered the British ska movement that had happened 15 years before.
With ...And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid served as the bridge that held these two scenes together, albeit rather loosely. The album opens with a short rocket blast of a song, "Maxwell Murder," which also includes a bass solo by super-bassist Matt Freeman. But a little later, you get "Time Bomb," a lesson in ska. It also proved to be one of the band's most successful singles.
The album's first single, "Roots Radical," is a love letter to the politically charged reggae that the band loves so much, but done as a chant-along pop-punk song. It borrows its name from a song with the same name by reggae legend Jimmy Cliff:
Following the mainstream success of their punk contemporaries, Rancid received recording contract offers from a number of major labels, including Madonna's own Maverick Records. In the end, they decided they were more comfortable remaining at home with the independent label that helped launch their career, Epitaph.
Despite the lack of major label support, ...And Out Come the Wolves was a big hit for the band. It climbed through the ranks of the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 45 -- an impressive feat for such an esoteric band on a relatively small label.
Throughout their history, Rancid has seemed to switch focus between the different genres of music within their wheelhouse. While this might seem to be part of some calculated plan, the band has always maintained that their songwriting and recording sessions never start with an agenda.
"I don't think we consciously worked it in," Freeman told Punk Rock Academy. "I mean, I think we can play a lot of stuff. I think we're all decent musicians and we've been influenced by those things and it just came out, you know what I mean? Me and Tim have been playing ska for a long time, it just didn't come out on 'Let's Go' or the first record. If it was purposeful any time, it was the first record, just because of the whole Operation Ivy thing, you know what I'm saying? But the band really didn't steal it. When you write songs and when you do an album, you gotta have the whole band in there, working together, you know what I'm saying? You can't shove anything down anyone's throat, so it just came out this way and that's what we felt about doing it."
Whatever the motivations behind ...And Out Come the Wolves, the four fellows from Berkeley, Calif., made good, and they did it on their own terms.
25 Bands You Won't Believe Aren't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Yet