Various Artists - ...And Out Come the Lawsuits (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Various Artists

...And Out Come the Lawsuits (2021)

Sell the Heart

The problem with most cover albums is- what’s the point? If I wanted to listen to a full Ramones album, I’d listen to the Ramones, not 14 bands that are not as good as the Ramones trying to sound like the Ramones. (This is in contrast to a single cover track, of course, which can add a little spice into a record and also can underscore the covering band’s style and artistic choices). So, …And Out Come the Lawsuits was facing an uphill battle before it even started. Rancid’s third LP is one of the most iconic modern punk records and, well, it’s really, really good. So, what’s the point of a bunch of bands doing a track-by-track cover of the whole thing?

Here’s the answer- because these tracks are zippy, and because the Rancid versions have been played to death by just about everybody, the release ends up being a lot of fun, and also, it does resurrect some of the magic from the first few times you spun the classic original.

The thing with covers is if you play it to square, it has no purpose. If you play it too whacked out, the “cover” element is lost and it just seems like you’re trying to be cute (usually). Lawsuits plays it smart and drives it right down the middle. Roughly speaking, the A-side finds bands cherishing Rancid’s modern street punk aesthetic and driving home faithful renditions. Get Married’s take on “Roots Radical” follows Rancid’s bouncy energy and maybe adds just a little bit of pop=punk to the track. Stay Wid’s take on “Maxwell Murder” has a similar philosophy, except it takes the tune in a slightly more hardcore direction. Flying Raccoon Suit has a refreshing take on “timebomb” and drags the tune from the streetpunk ideology of Wolves and pulls it into the Life won’t wait ska era. It works really well. A particularly highlight is Omnigone’s take on “Lock, step, and Gone” which has a delightful surprise midway through.

The flipside has the more radical renditions, more or less. Vantana Row’s “She’s Automatic” totally breraks the tune down into an electro-grindcore tune. School Bus Driver looks to Flaming Lips and Neutral Milk Hotel for their cover of “You don’t care nothin’” before mashing it down into a subdued folk-punk track. Throughout both sides, it’s clear the bands are having fun all while saluting the power of these original songs. Yes, Rancid are not untouchable, and yes, Rancid has had some mis-steps, and yes, rancid can dissolve into self-parody, but damn, you have to give credit where credit is due and Wolves is an amazing album. That’s underscored here by how so many bands are able to take these tracks and make them their own, thereby showing the universe of Rancid influence. It also shows how powerful Rancid tunes are as no matter how these sings are played- straight ahead or mashed up- the core power of the song does the heavy lifting. There isn’t a bad track in the bunch, thanks to both the bands and Rancid themselves. It’s not easy to squeeze new life and excitement into a 26 year old CD that has been in non-stop rotation since release, but this crew has done it.