...And Out Come the Wolves by Rancid
is one of the greatest punk albums of all time. Very few fans of punk rock will dispute this. Nearly everyone, whether they like punk
or not, has heard of Rancid. Many of the well-known songs by Rancid come from this album, and it's definitely their most popular work. Despite its popularity, it is very meaningful and does not sound too poppy. This album contains some songs that have a clear ska sound, not unlike some members of the band made back in the old Operation Ivy
days. Wolves marked a departure from the harder sounds present on Let's Go
and their first album, which was self-titled.
Rancid's lineup has stayed consistent since Lars Frederiksen joined the band, which was right around their first release. The four members of the band truly bring it together throughout this album. Lars and Brett Reed, the drummer, perform solidly. Matt Freeman is one of the most talented bassists I've ever heard, and he displays his skill in his various solos throughout the album. Tim Armstrong, Rancid's lead man, wrote all of the lyrics for the album. His chicken-scratch handwriting covers the entire lyrics sheet which comes with the album, complete with words in random places and lots of crossing-out. Tim has many common themes in his lyrics. Songs like Olympia, Wa., Roots Radicals, and Journey to the End of the East Bay contrast Tim's feeling of home on the West Coast with the other environments he's familiar with. Other songs like Daly City Train, Old Friend, and Avenues and Alleyways are all about the various types of people Tim has met over the years.
The album opens with Maxwell Murder, a song very reminiscent of the style Rancid plays on their first two albums as well as Rancid (2000). This song is very fast and prepares you well for the sounds of the rest of the album. This first song also gives Matt the opportunity to show off his crazy bass skills with a solo towards the second part of the song. Next up is The 11th Hour, which takes the tempo down a little. The lyrics in this song are very striking and forceful. They deal with the knowledge about what it takes to change your life, and lamenting on the past.
One of Rancid's best-known songs is next: Roots Radicals. The uptempo ska sound of this track reminds the listener of Operation Ivy. The lyric in this song, "Give 'em the boot", provided the name for some compilations on Epitaph Records. Hardcore fans of Rancid say that songs like this sound too much like popular music. Good music is good music, regardless of who likes it. Roots Radicals is a classic. Following Roots Radicals is Time Bomb, which again has a little ska flavor. The lyrics in this song deal with a guy in trouble, "the boy's a time bomb". Though the song is definitely upbeat, the song goes on to describe gunshots and a new king rising.
Olympia, Wa. comes next. This song is very well known. It describes Tim and Lars in New York City, and how they'd like to go back to Olympia. They meet women and other people who fuck with them and make them depressed. Tim shows his enormous West Coast bias here. After this song is Lock, Step & Gone. This song is fast and very catchy. The song describes the wrong state of the world, where people have to lock up their doors and possessions to avoid killers and criminals. It also describes fear and the motives behind it.
The seventh track on the album is Junkie Man. It's not hard to imagine what this song is about. Tim sympathizes with drug addicts and other folks like that because he has once traveled down that road; Matt and the other members of Rancid helped him kick his habits. The line "...and out come the wolves, their paws trampling", appears in Junkie Man. This is a part of a little breakdown that happens halfway through the song. Next up is Listed M.I.A., which again deals with falling down and coming back up again. The song expresses the difficulty of forming your life after falling from grace, whether it be because of drugs or hard luck. After this song, the album takes a brighter turn and Ruby Soho plays. This song is about two people in love who have to say goodbye to each other. Despite the sad, negative connotations these images might produce, this song is quite happy and has a tendency to stick in your head. Junkie Man, Listed M.I.A., and Ruby Soho all reflect Tim's attitudes on hope for the future.
Daly City Train is the next song. Reggae sounds dominate this song, which is all about a man named Jackyl. Jackyl must have meant a lot to Tim, and Tim laments the fact that Jackyl disappeared all too early in his life. This song expresses the importance of remembering good friends. After this song comes Journey to the End of the East Bay. Tim reveals a great deal of truth about the East Bay here, from his own perspective and experience. A friend of his puts it, "this ain't no mecca, man, this place is fucked." Though Tim likes the West Coast, he realizes why many people don't like the West Coast scene. Still, he resolves to "journey to the end" and bide his time there. The guitar work on this song is particularly impressive, alternating between fast and slow exactly when it needs to. It supports and expands upon everything that is being sung.
She's Automatic is just about the closest Rancid will ever come to a straight-up love song. The lyrics, as they read off the page, don't seem like they could possibly be by Rancid ("I get anxious around her, she put her head on my shoulder, I started to hold her"). Still, when Tim's scratchy voice sings those words and Matt's bass goes so fast, you realize that Rancid can indeed pull this off without being sappy. Old Friend continues this energetic vibe. Parts like the fantastic guitar bridge in this song show Rancid maturing as a band. The joy of seeing old friends and reminiscing on old times forms the main theme of this song, track number 13.
Disorder and Disarray gives the album a little bit of, well, disorder and disarray. This song is still more upbeat than most songs on the album, but not as much as She's Automatic and Old Friend. There are a lot of images of crucifixion in this song. Tim begs to be ignored by big business, and for the spotlight to be shifted. The irony presented in this song is that organized business, the pinnacle of order and efficiency, actually has a lot of disorder and corruption in it. The Wars End, the next track, takes the tempo back down. Rancid handles this transition really well, and you're hungry to hear a slower song at this point. The wars that are ending in this song are the wars between children who like punk rock and its ideals and their parents who try to hold them back.
You Don't Care Nothin' comes after The Wars End. Lars handles a great deal of the vocal responsibilities on this track, and the song seems to be addressed directly to a girl who doesn't care about him at all. If this girl, Jenny Demilo, is a real person, she was probably very embarrassed by this song. I wouldn't put it past Rancid to do this to the poor girl. As Wicked is next. This song describes homeless men and children dying from starvation and cold, women losing people important to them, and other hardships. Though this seems hopeless and wicked, people still go on with their lives, hoping that one day things will get better. Tim also realizes how lucky he is that fortune didn't fuck him over too badly, while all of these other people have even bigger problems than he does.
The next-to-last song is Avenues & Alleyways. The song opens with some "Oi! Oi! Oi!", which is uncharacteristic for Rancid. Avenues & Alleyways describes the urban problems that infect the world. The problems have taken a while to build up, so they're hard to destroy. Still, Rancid's theme on this album is hope, and they don't stop their message even for one song. The final song on this album is The Way I Feel. This song has a very catchy rhythm that starts up right at the beginning and keeps you listening through the whole song. It ends the album on a good, positive note. There's a lot of "na, na, na, na" which we don't expect from Rancid. It's really symbolic of the way they break expectations consistently throughout the album.
Once we understand the themes expressed in ...And Out Come the Wolves, we learn much about Rancid. The cover for this album is black and white photograph of a depressed young punk with a Mohawk sitting on some steps. The themes of hope and coming back from substance abuse and other problems are illustrated very well. Even the title is fitting; the wolves of our society are out to get people if they've made mistakes without giving them a second chance. Without a doubt, Tim and the other members of Rancid have come in contact with these wolves and have fought them off together.
People don't believe me when I say that punk rock can be meaningful. Wolves is not just ear candy. The members of Rancid have gone through some bad experiences together. They can sing about it without it sounding corny or overly emotional like the whiny emo bands of today. ...And Out Come the Wolves has influenced and inspired many musicians and listeners.