Rancid- Tomorrow Never Comes (Album Review)

June 2, 2023


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Whether you’ve listened to them in-depth or not, if you’ve spent any time with punk music chances are good you’ve come across a Rancid song or album.  Since their formation in 1991, the band has made waves throughout the genre and their run from the 90s up until 2000 resulted in quite a few highly regarded albums.  From 2003’s Indestructible onwards the reception was much more mixed, with some enjoying the more diverse and mellower moments of albums like Let the Dominoes Fall while others were left wanting more.  I personally was a big fan of Let the Dominoes Fall but bounced off the two albums that followed, 2014’s Honor Is All We Know and 2017’s Trouble Maker.  A lot has time has passed since the latter, and this year’s Tomorrow Never Comes finally closes what is the longest gap between albums in Rancid’s career.  So what does a long-running band with an established sound and legacy do for album number ten?  The answer appears to be to strip things back to their foundation and offer up short, punchy songs that hearken back to the rawer and in your face side of the band, and that’s a great thing.

Coming in at under half an hour, all the songs on Tomorrow Never Comes run for two and a half minutes or less, meaning that the riffs come in hard and fast without overstaying their welcome.  There are still sixteen of them, so you get plenty of different riffs that encompass the scops of Rancid’s take on punk that they’ve established over the decades, but this is a much more compact and focused approach than the band has gone for in recent memory.  It works too, as while there are still some moments that run together over repeat listens, I can’t think of any that are outright skippable or feel like they’re out of place.  Rancid definitely seems to be going from strength to strength on Tomorrow Never Comes, with the likes of “New American”, “Magnificent Rogue”, and “Hellbound Train” offering some of my favorite hooks.  If some of the last few albums from this group felt a bit too laid back for you, this one feels like a return to the high energy and fast paced punk that was offered earlier on and chances are it’ll draw you back to Rancid’s material.  There’s a thicker, chunkier tone to the guitar and bass that bring the 2000 self-titled to mind, but the production still has a modern sheen to it that makes all these riffs sound big.  It's too early to say if some of these tracks will have the same staying power as some of the band’s classics, but even if they don’t this is a strong showing with plenty of catchy moments.

Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen had a more equal vocal split early on, but later Rancid albums had a lot more Armstrong led tracks.  This is once again the case on Tomorrow Never Comes, but I appreciate the times that Frederiksen and Matt Freeman do pop up on some key tracks.  The title track kicks things off with contributions from all three, and I still love the move from Armstrong’s gruff yet cleaner singing into Freeman’s much burlier, ragged tone.  “Magnificent Rogue” is a highlight for me thanks to Frederiksen’s rougher delivery, and it’s on par with some of the other songs he’s taken lead vocal spot on throughout Rancid’s discography.  Even with the material being so short and sometimes flying by in a blur, there are plenty of sing-along worthy moments, and this makes for an album with some real staying power.

Rancid’s not reinventing anything on album number ten and this isn’t even their most diverse offering on the songwriting front, but what they have done is crank up the energy to eleven and written short, catchy punk songs that recall their earlier days.  I was expecting some stand-out songs but was surprised by how many have been stuck in my head for days, and there’s something to be said for a band like this returning with this much energy when many of their peers sound like they’ve run out of gas.  If you’re a fan of catchy, straightforward punk rock, expect to get plenty of mileage out of this album.  Tomorrow Never Comes is available from Hellcat/Epitaph Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg