RANCID — ‘Troublemaker’
THE GOOD: Bay area punk legends Rancid remain loud and livid on their ninth.
THE BAD: Tim Armstrong and crew aren’t angry young men anymore, Rancid being a cohesive unit for over a quarter century now. But they’re now pissed-off middle-aged dudes. That has to be legit enough for you.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Thankfully, the guys aren’t aging gracefully. Rancid is one of a handful of punk bands that remain both relevant and potent decades into their careers. Bad Religion (another strong punk mainstay) guitarist Brett Gurewitz produces “Troublemaker,” a loud, melodic mix of blue-collar and political anthems played either fast and hard (“All American Neighborhood”) or straight down a rock ‘n’ roll middle ground (“Bovver Rock ‘n’ Roll”). Of course, we get a few pumping ska-flavored cuts (“Where I’m Going”) as well.
Sure “Troublemaker” may be a little predictable. However, Rancid does what it does so well (and often better than its younger peers), so the guys don’t need to re-invent themselves. We wouldn’t want that anyway.
BUY IT?: Yep.
311 — ‘Mosaic’
THE GOOD: Nebraska alt-rockers 311 return with their 12th.
THE BAD: It might as well be their sixth, 10th or 20th.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Sorry, I’m a “casual fan.” Every album seems to have two cuts for which I go absolutely bonkers, along with a dozen other tracks that sound like pale imitations of those two awesome songs. C’mon, 311 enthusiasts, admit it. These guys have made slight variations on the same album for over two decades now.
You get that infectious mix of hard rock, reggae, ska and funk — party music filled with declarations of good vibes and daily affirmations. This time, the best songs are right up front: smooth, swirling single “Too Much To Think” followed by the more progressive, classical-tinged “Wildfire.”
Too bad “Mosaic” feels stuck on repeat about 10 songs in (and you still have another seven tracks to go). Definitely flawed and predictable, “Mosaic” could have used a slight trim. Maybe take this one in small doses.
BUY IT?: Your call.
FAMILY ANIMALS — ‘Don’t Expect a Climax’
THE GOOD: Scranton indie rockers Family Animals come back with an unpredictable third full-length album.
THE BAD: It’s not bad, but expect a record that’s all over the proverbial musical map.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Brothers Anthony and Jesse Viola and their buddy Frank DeSando bookend “Climax” with a pair of extended prog-rock pieces recalling ’70s outfits such as Nektar, Klaatu and Lighthouse (if they fired the horn section). Tight harmonies, swirling bits of organ, varying tempos, violent mood swings — it’s heavy, man. Yet the guys pull it off without sounding pretentious. After “Category 5 Sexplosion” closes, you WANT to move forward.
That’s when you’re greeted with the ska-tinged frolic of “Fun Loving Song,” the rollicking “Face Off” and a host of other tracks digging up sounds as disparate as early Red Hot Chili Peppers to prime Screaming Trees. Yet Family Animals continues to blaze new trails (as opposed to just soaking up grooves from the past 45 years).
The boys refuse to be pigeonholed. “Climax” is a trippy experiment that rarely falters.
BUY IT? Yep.