Rancid - Tomorrow Never Comes (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Tomorrow Never Comes (2023)


Back in the John-n-Adam days of the Punknews podcast, we used to have a term for what bands should do after a string of aimless albums: “They should pull a Rancid 5.” Basically, it was a cure-all for any veteran band that had covered so much ground that they had nothing left to do. The solution? Just cut a really, really fast hardcore punk album.

And of course, since Rancid 5, Rancid has released a string of somewhat aimless albums. Indestructible had some great tracks and some total filler. Everything after that seemed to be a mush- Rancid was basically trying to write songs in the Wolves vein, though they were not as good, all the while bafflingly saving their best material for their various solo ventures. So, what does Rancid do, now that they have been lost at sea since 2000’s Rancid 5? They finally saw the light and pulled a Rancid 5.

Tomorrow Never Comes, somehow their first LP in six years, is chock full of short and fast songs. Some tunes, like “Mud, Blood, and Gold,” are barely more than a refrain. Frankly, it works. Rancid has always been one of the stronger songwriting bands in punk, but here, the mega-short time frame for each song forces the band to cut the excess (and a lot of cliches which have recently come to weigh them down) and focus on doing what they do best. Hard and catchy tunes.

“Devil in Disguise” finds the Armstrong revisiting one of his favorite topics- paranoia and betrayal, a topic which probably which was at its height on Rancid 5. (Interesting that topic is so heavy in Rancid’s repertoire considering so much of their songs are about brotherhood and sticking together…?) The Strummer worship, or homage, again rises with “The Prisoner’s Song,” which finds the band taking on the mindset of Joe and his songs like “Jail guitar Doors” and “Johnny Appleseed.”

All of these classic Rancid styles are pushed by a certain energy surge. Now, Rancid were road hardened, but youthful guys in 2000 and now they are clearly veterans and wizened. That means that the record isn’t a pure sequel to the berserk explosiveness of Rancid 5, but it’s definitely their most focused and unified record since then. Some of the band’s OI! Influences sneak through (no ska, though) so the record isn’t a blind sprint, but it does underscore that when the band is all working on the same mission, they are at their best. The question since Indestructible has been- just how fractured is Rancid? Tomorrow suggests the answer is “much less than before.” In fact, the unified approach and speed makes Rancid’s more cliché and common tropes fade away, or at least feel less burdensome. In fact, this feels like the band’s most pure record in over 20 years.

Now, let’s face it- it will be difficult for Rancid to pull yet ANOTHER self-reinvention, if only because their incredible run from ’93-’00 defined the band, solidified them, and cut them away from weaker contemporaries. (Though I’d argue they could still pull off a Wire/Gang of Four or straight up neo-ska record). So, the fact that they are constantly chained to past victories makes a current seminal record a near-impossible task. If it’s exactly like wolves than it will pale in comparison. If it’s totally different, then it’s “not Rancid.” Here, Rancid don’t redefine themselves, but they show that there is a lot of life in some of their lesser explored aspects. Simply, this is the band’s best record since Rancid 5. So, for the next LP, can they pull a Rancid 5 again?