Sound — 6
Though it's an observation seen in numerous genres, punk in particular is a genre that doesn't age well - what begins as a soundtrack to fuel the youth with reckless abandon eventually half-lives into something reflected upon with sheepish nostalgia, like a tattoo that someone got in drunken surreptitiousness. Whether you want to say Rancid's penchant for punk grew weak or that they themselves aged for the worse ("Rancid Goes Stale" is a headline that writes itself), it was evident by the time "Indestructable" came out that they wanted to be doing other things. Iconic frontman Tim Armstrong would end up making a solo album that went whole-hog reggae/ska, while guitarist Lars Frederiksen went back to his side-project Lars Frederiksen & The Bastards to record a second album; though with it being produced and co-written by Armstrong, it was more or less another Rancid album by proxy. When Rancid reunited years later to make their seventh album, "Let the Dominoes Fall," the album's integration of acoustic folk elements received mixed reviews, and duly reinforced the idea that Rancid were getting too mature for the punk flag they once waved with emphatic success.
A worse plague of delays ailed their eighth album, "...Honor Is All We Know." Originally scheduled to be released at the same time as the band's 20th anniversary, the plan didn't work out due to Armstrong spinning plates with his supergroup The Transplants and his newfound side-project Tim Timebomb. When Rancid finally began recording in the studio come 2013, they had scheduled to release the new album in June, but with very little detail on the album's progress coming out in the weeks prior, they would miss their scheduled date and stay silent about it until months later, when they finally announced the official tracklist and release date of the album (and followed through with it). At this point, both anticipation and annoyance were near critical mass, which may be the better thing to pay attention to than Rancid's last two wavering albums.
In regards to their swath of experimentation in their later years, "...Honor Is All We Know" brings things back to the heart of Rancid's punk side, which is bluntly established right out of the gate with "Back Where I Belong." Most songs blow by fast like in Rancid's early albums, with only two songs clocking in above three minutes, and the sprinting instrumental-work shines brightest in "Collision Course," "Honor Is All We Know," "Already Dead," "Now We're Through With You," and "Grave Digger." The band's pride & joy basslines supplied by Matt Freeman are still in good form throughout, though he unfortunately never conjures the lead melody in proper Rancid form, nor busts into a solo at any time. And with "A Power Inside," "In the Streets," "Face Off," and "Diabolical" registering at the lower-end of the barrel instrumentally, Rancid's strong reinvestment in straightforward punk does have its falters. With only a few breaks from the primary flavor, of course they provide a fix of ska in "Evil's My Friend" and "Everybody's Sufferin'" - but though the former track is a hit, "Everybody's Sufferin'" comes off like a b-side from Armstrong's solo album "A Poet's Life," and despite being shy of three minutes long, the single-riffed song drags on longer than it needs to. And in the black-sheep track, "Malfunction," Rancid pay homage to vintage power pop with perky tambourines, a triumphant organ line, and a main riff reminiscent of The Who's "I Can't Explain."
Lyrics — 6
Due to the short length of the majority of songs, the lyrics in "...Honor Is All We Know" almost exclusively render themselves as street punk sing-alongs, tailored with group chants spouting a variety of punk rock motivational quotes (like if the Dalai Lama had liberty spikes and wore a patch-covered denim vest). As the opening "Back Where I Belong" is as much an exuberant message of Rancid's return as a band as it is a message for anybody coming back to anything (but preferably back to the punk scene), the scene's camaraderie is further established in the "fight the power" message of "Raise Your Fist," the "all for one, one for all" message of "A Power Inside" and the almost-too-literal street punk anthem "In the Streets." The anthemic flavor to the majority of tracks ends up working at a fault, however - "Honor Is All We Know" delivers fortune-cookie punk proverbs, while the simple downtrodden message in "Everybody's Sufferin'" loops around as tediously as the instruments, and the punk scene drama depicted of "Now We're Through With You" is nothing beyond basic.
Overall Impression — 6
Before anything, it's best to come to grips with the fact that "...Honor Is All We Know" wasn't ever going to perfectly replicate nor best Rancid's triumphs in their heyday - frankly, every album of theirs that followed their magnum opus "...And Out Come The Wolves" had to unfortunately struggle with comparisons. But rather than trying to reinvent their wheel like they tried with "Indestructable" and "Let the Dominoes Fall," Rancid simply rehash their punk spirit with "...Honor Is All We Know," which, being an element people thought was waning with Rancid after the turn of the millennium, is a good thing to achieve after a band's 20-year mark. And perhaps most thankfully in contrast to their last two albums, "...Honor Is All We Know" is a quick listen that doesn't overstay its welcome.