Hang around enough High School punkers for long enough and one of them is bound to wear the classic black Operation Ivy hoodie or tshirt. The interesting thing about Op Ivy is that they were only together for two short years (1987-89) and recorded two even shorter studio’s – one LP and one EP. Somehow over the years the band has been immortalized, and I have to imagine the cause of their infamy is the track “Journey to the End Of East Bay”.
Let’s back up. In 1991 Matt Freeman and Tim Armstrong, two ska enthusiasts from California’s own Operation Ivy decided it was high time they started making music again. This time combining their ska roots with a harder punk edge, together with Lars Fredrickson (see: Lars Fredrickson and the Bastards) and Branden Steineckert they created Rancid.
After two album releases Rancid started gaining attention in the booming ’90’s punk scene, but it was their third release “…And Out Came The Wolves” (1995) which cemented them as a serious force of punk rock awesomeness.
At an astounding 19 tracks, AOCTW is still thought of as one of the most integral records in the post-Ramones punk world. So rarely is there an album which flows effortlessly from cover to cover with not a single track worth skipping. The album demonstrates the three things Rancid does so well. The first is Armstrong’s unique scratchy vocals which simultaneously irritate and please – meaning he is enjoyable to listen to but you can’t forget that he’s fucking punk. The second is Freeman’s insane bass talent, which is blasted in your face right from the get go with the first four notes of album opener “Maxwell Murder”, a song that boasts one of the most attempted bass solo’s in punk history. The opener of “Journey to the End of East Bay” may walk a slower pace but its prominence and catchiness reminds you that the bass demands listening to, as Freeman owns it. The third thing Rancid really embraces in this album are their ska/reggae roots, as songs like “Time Bomb” and “Old Friend” are the perfect punk/ska hybrid that make Rancid unique yet mass appealing.
What else do the kids love about Rancid? There’s an interesting dichotomy at play with this group. The name itself, the album covers,the way the members dress, and Armstrong’s spitting vocals are the epitome of fuck-you-punk-rock. But softer edged, melodic tracks like “The Wars End”, “Ruby Soho”, and “Daly City Train” show a soft underbelly that even the stiffest of punkers secretly crave.
The standouts on this album are a long list, but the obvious choices are “Ruby Soho” (soft verse and bullseye chorus), “Journey to the End of Easy Bay” (the story of Operation Ivy put to song), “Time Bomb” (lyric: “the secret to a good life? knowing when you’re through”), and “The Wars End” (melodic and sweet song of war).
Put it on your record player and slap on a sneer.