Even in the Bible Belt suburbs where I grew in the early '90s, there were a select few who took the punk flag and waved it proudly.
On Wednesday night, those same kids from the Houston sprawl will have a chance to dust off the sleeveless denim jackets for a evening at the House of the Blues with punk stalwarts Rancid, which is rumored to release its eighth album later this year.
My Katy-area school had a small but devoted pack of rebels proudly wearing Ramones-style leather bombers long after they had been tossed from the closets of those who moved on to the flannel-wrapped grunge era. Since its beginnings in the late 1970s, punk has been more than just a genre of music or the fashion statement of safety pins through nostrils. It’s a way of life for devotees, with almost a cultish, family feeling to the scene.
Formed in 1991 by Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman from the ashes of Bay Area ska legends Operation Ivy, Rancid was required reading for high school punks in my day. And for 20-plus years, the band has escaped the scornful “sell out” label that befalls the most talented of acts. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Green Day.)
From their earliest days as a band, Armstrong and the boys have enjoyed both critical acclaim and a loyal fanbase. Rancid even flirted with mainstream popularity on the strength of their songwriting skills, finding themselves with a top-50 record (1995's And Out Come the Wolves) and success on MTV of all places. Videos like “Ruby Soho” and “Timebomb” not only played late night alt-music shows like 120 Minutes, but remarkably during the network’s primetime slots as well.
The band and their instantly-recognized brand of California punk — a mix of old-school reggae and ska with a dash of bouncy funk thanks to Freeman’s genre-defying bass lines — continues to stand out well into the 21st century in a scene that's witnessed plenty of acts come and go . . . often for good reason.