Sound — 7
It has been a gap of almost six years since the punk juggernaut that is Rancid released their last album Indestructible. However, that is not to say by any means that the boys have been idle in that time. In fact, the Rancid lads have been anything but idle. Frontman Tim Armstrong has released two records with his side project supergroup The Transplants and a self titled solo ska effort of his own in that time; guitarist Lars Frederiksen released Viking, the sophomore effort from his side project aptly named Lars Frederiksen and The Bastards; bassist Matt Freeman toured with Social Distortion as a sub-in bassist after John Maurer left; new drummer Branden Steineckert, who officially joined the band in 2006, produced two albums. Now rejuvenated, reformed and ready to take on 2009, Rancid have released their seventh album Let The Dominoes Fall. Kicking off the album with East Bay Night, a soon-to-be classic tune that pays homage to the San Francisco East Bay, the 19 track album is full of surprises. Whilst there are tracks on the album such as This Place, a one minute song which resembles very much the Rancid of the Let's Go era with its prominent bass lines and punk-shouted gang vocals in the chorus, there are also songs such as Civilian Ways, a slow tempo-ed acoustic folk track very much in the same vein as Bob Dylan and Billy Bragg. Other surprises include the inclusion of four ska based songs: the straight up ska delights of Up To No Good and Liberty And Freedom; the dub infused I Ain't Worried; and one of the album's highlights, the The Clash sounding That's Just The Way It Is Now. There' even a song that sounds like it would be right at home on a Transplants record: Skull City. With all that being said, there are still tracks such as Damnation, Disconnected, You Want It You Got It, The Bravest Kids, and the bass ridden L.A River which sound much more like the ...And Out Come The Wolves era of Rancid, whilst there are also tracks such as the title track Dominoes Fall, Lulu, and first single Last One To Die which see Rancid carry on in the same poppy vein as Fall Back Down off Indestructible. Instrumentals wise, Rancid keep it cooking with classic Lars solos and distinguishable Matt bass lines. New boy Branden also makes a very solid effort to live up to and secure his place as a Rancid punk. The one qualm is the inclusion of two acoustic tracks on the album when, as many of you will already know, most versions of the album is sold as a two CD package, with the second housing 12 acoustic done versions of the initial album tracks.
Lyrics — 8
With this studio effort, we re-welcome the singing talents of Matt 'The Bullfrog' Freemon. His vocals contribute to the success of four songs including the song L.A River in which he predominantly sings of the leeching culture of the city of LA: From every corner of this great old nation, good kids succumb to the depths of temptation, homecoming queens get lost in the cracks, and quarter back heroes get strung out on crack. A self confessed poet, Tim Armstrong's lyrics are effective, proud, and true. This is best shown on the first single Last One To Die in which he shoots down his failed critics and doubters of the band: The ones that counted us out, regret that they packed the fight, we sit on top of the world, and were proving it every night and sings in his trademark raspy voice of staying true to themselves: Through the storm and the gigs, and the good and the bad, there ain't no doubt, we knew from the very first show what it was all about. There are unfortunately less Lars Frederiksen songs on this album. The one song in which he predominantly sings is the soon to be classic New Orleans. However, that is not to say that Lars doesn't have many other vocal duties. In fact many of the songs on Let The Dominoes Fall are shared equally between the three guitarists. Such a song would be one of the highlight songs You Want It, You Got It.
Overall Impression — 7
Let The Dominoes Fall takes some time to get used to. The songs are all very much 'Rancid' in their own ways. However what can be critiqued is the fact that Let The Dominoes Fall sounds much more like a collection of Rancid songs rather than a record. There are songs on there which sound like they could be from Let's Go, some from ...And Out Come The Wolves, some from Indestructible, and others which seem influenced by the side projects which occurred in the bands six year break. To be frank, there is at least one song on the album which can be attributed to each of the past Rancid albums. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing as, in Rancid's case, nostalgia is the key to winning hearts and souls. Each song on the album was initially written on an acoustic guitar, and this shows through sometimes for the better such as Lulu, and sometimes for the worse, Liberty and Freedom. This is not to knock their writing process, it is just to say that it seems as if because of this, on some songs there seems to be a lack of aggression. However, overall the album is good. Along with the other great summer punk releases (NoFX's Coaster, Anti-Flag's The People or The Gun) Rancid's seventh studio effort Let The Dominoes Fall is sure to make many a contribution to the '09 summer playlist's of old and new fans worldwide.