Album Review: Rancid - Tomorrow Never Comes
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
The time between 2017’s Trouble Maker and the new record, Tomorrow Never Comes is the longest gap between albums in Rancid’s thirty-year career. Possibly due to Tim Armstrong’s many other irons in the fire and Lars Frederiksen’s time being taken up with the Old Firm Casuals and his tenure in one of my favourite Oi! bands, Last Resort. With Matt spending time with Charger and The Crew and Brandon doing whatever drummer do with their time off, it’s meant Rancid has necessarily been on the backburner for a while.
But the summer of 2023 is the time when the East Bay punk legends power-up once again and show the world what it’s been missing. With shows at Sweden Rocks, Hellfest and Graspop, as well as a couple of UK dates in London and Manchester (watch this space for that one), Rancid are back to lay waste to wherever they drop anchor.
To lead this assault will be Tomorrow Never Comes, the sixteen-track reconnaissance party, full of trademark Rancid tunes and a more than welcome return of the band to the record shelves.
Whether they like it or not, Rancid are Elder Statesmen of the scene and there is an expectation for them to give the patient fans what they came for. In that regard, tunes like Drop Dead Inn, When the Smoke Clears and the opening title track are all packed with the tropes we expect from the four-piece. Driving rhythms, killer hooks and the vocal interplay between Tim, Lars and Matt, over-layering each other, all contribute to a familiarity for Tomorrow Never Comes.
However, Rancid haven’t reached the peak of Punk without knowing how to stomp away with the best of them, and Don’t Make Me Do It, Live Forever and Magnificent Rogue are all fast and furious assaults on the ears. Eddie the Butcher and Hear Us Out show the band aren’t running out of steam as the album winds to its conclusion.
There’s a distinct undercurrent of the American West about One Way Ticket and Hellbound Train, the latter baring a tabaccy-spittin’ drawl of a vocal to go with the unstoppable musical progression.
The From Boston to Berkeley tours with the Dropkick Murphys seems to have seeped into the song writing of this album, with Devil In Disguise and Prisoner’s Song having a recognisable nod to their East Coast touring partners.
There are also Nautical themes aplenty across Tomorrow Never Comes: be they in the bass-driven Mud, Blood & Gold, the pop-punk and clean guitar of New American or the dark tales of Bloody & Violent History, the sea plays a prominent role.
Having been together in this recording iteration since Let the Dominos Fall in 2009, it’s of no surprise to report Rancid is as musically as tight as they’ve ever been, with all contributors being understated and allowing the album to be better for that.
I suppose the obvious question would be: How does this album stack up against …And Out Come the Wolves? And the answer is: Only time will tell. …Wolves is nearly thirty years old and Rancid have grown and matured in that time. Just as they wouldn’t necessarily have written …Wolves, part II this year, they couldn’t have written Tomorrow Never Comes in 1995. What we have here is a fine addition to the existing Rancid canon that amply whets the appetite for those long-awaited live shows later in the month. Manchester here I come!