At this point in its career Rancid is essentially the modern-day equivalent of Social Distortion in the sense that it isn’t so much a punk band anymore as it is an institution to be occasionally revisited. People go to the group’s shows to hear hits like “Salvation” and “Ruby Soho,” and newer songs are more of a courtesy to the band than something the audience is actually clamoring for. (To further that analogy, most hardcore Social Distortion fans would be hard-pressed to name any original songs post-1996’s White Light, White Heat, White Trash.)
However, while the group’s eighth studio album …Honor Is All We Know sounds predictably like Rancid, it also manages to stand on its own as a testament to the band’s ability to continue crafting lasting anthems. Opener “Back Where I Belong” makes it sound as though Rancid just finished playing Saturday Night Live last week instead of 19 years ago. With Matt Freeman’s nimble-fingered bass playing leading the charge, the two-minute rocker silences cynics via guitarist-vocalist Tim Armstrong’s instantly recognizable sneer, soaring harmonies, and an unwavering backbeat courtesy of the band’s latest addition, Branden Steineckert (who has still been in Rancid for eight years now).
Rancid has always twisted its ’70s punk influences like Stiff Little Fingers and Sham 69 into more accessible compositions, and whether it’s the palm-muted perfection of “Honor Is All We Know” (which features Armstrong, Freeman, and guitarist-vocalist Lars Frederiksen all sharing verses) or the no-frills attack of “Raise Your Fist,” these new songs are far more memorable than anything from 2009’s disappointing Let The Dominoes Fall. Rancid is at its best when it keeps things simple and strips them down as the group does on melodic rockers like “In The Streets” or ominous-sounding “Already Dead,” the latter of which wouldn’t sound out of place on the band’s 1994 breakthrough Let’s Go.
…Honor Is All We Know certainly isn’t going to overshadow the legacy of the band’s classic albums like …And Out Come The Wolves, which wasn’t only influential musically but also helped shape the landscape of popular culture in the process. But these new songs should be welcome additions to the band’s live performances instead of being the obligatory respite from what fans actually want to hear—and Rancid’s ability to pull that off by being the best version of itself is what makes this album such a triumph.