Rancid returns with Let the Dominoes Fall — their first studio album in seven years — and it feels like they haven’t missed a beat. Recorded at Skywalker Sound Studio with production by Brett Gurewitz, there is a distinct, hard-working quality to the record and it feels brilliantly frayed and torn even after just one listen.
While Green Day has gone on to excel at producing spacious, experimental pop-punk records like 21st Century Breakdown, Rancid find themselves tearing through blue-collar song constructions with reckless abandon. The approach is simple without being simplistic, top-loaded with sincerity and spittle-drenched potency.
Rancid’s music is inclusive, offering a bottle to sweaty factory workers, busted teen punks, and interested bystanders with a hospitable grin.
Bob Dylan was a poet for all of us; he didn’t belong to you or me alone. In similar fashion, Tim Armstrong, Lars Frederiksen, Matt Freeman, and new drummer Branden Steineckert tell stories for all of us. Their narratives, whether couched in hatred or joy, revel in the light of ultimate truth.
Let the Dominoes Fall, then, is another slice of that truth.
Packed with two-minute anthems of rage, fear, sadness, and celebration, this is a record of astonishing affection. Notes of ska, street punk, pop punk, and folk music pepper the album with sparkles of brash and engaging intensity.
“East Bay Night” is a pointed kick in the gut to open the record. The cut sounds like something out of the '90s, yet it maintains modernity and sounds entirely contemporary with each upstroke of guitar.
Similar patterns materialize, with the ska punk delight of the Booker T. Jones-assisted “Up to No Good” and the “Ruby Soho” inspired “Disconnected” firing on all cylinders, showcasing the best what Rancid has to offer.
The vocals shift continually, with Armstrong, Frederiksen, and Freeman all tackling verses and sharing the fun in the choruses. The three work best on the intimidating dark gloom of “I Ain’t Worried,” featuring more mic trade-offs than a rap tune.
The record’s breakneck pace is rarely interrupted, but “Civilian Ways” unloads a folk ballad that simmers down with bits of Dylan and Springsteen. With mandolin and slide guitar coasting underneath Armstrong’s compelling vocal performance, it’s one of the best songs of the year. The piece tells a story about Armstrong’s brother, Greg, upon his return from military service in Iraq.
Other tunes thrash out a triumphant post-Katrina “New Orleans” and a tragic economy (“Lulu”) while maintaining true to vital themes of authenticity, justice, and compassion.
With 19 songs of brutal, anxious, disturbing, poignant, powerful truth, Let the Dominoes Fall is an important work in punk and another winner from one of the most iconic bands in music.