Among the world's richest gutter punks, Rancid rose from the streets, the alleyways and the septic tanks to sing with authenticity about fistfights in cemeteries and the dead-broke, NyQuil-chuggin' lifestyle. After they had a mid-'90s hit with "Salvation," a song about collecting junk in wealthy neighborhoods for the Salvation Army, and then released their third and best album . . . And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid's peacock-style Mohawks and sneering mugs began to appear on the covers of magazines far removed from the punk zine world, like Details. Of course, the crusty, dreadlocked, Exploited-patch-wearing, Taco Bell punks called them sellouts.

And since hitting it big, life has been low-key for the Rancid guys. They put out a crummy album, Life Won't Wait; made up for that with a self-titled, back to their punk-rock roots record; and then singer/guitarist Tim Armstrong created an unusual, hip-hop influenced side project, Transplants, which somehow worked beautifully. So, when they came out this year with Indestructible, their best album since . . . And Out Come the Wolves, no one was inclined to pay much attention. Teenagers had moved on to newer trends and facial piercing, and Rancid's original punk fan base had mostly fled. But the band still has its spunk intact. Armstrong and bassist Matt Freeman pull off ragged leads that few of the forefathers of punk could have managed. Armstrong has also matured to become a truly soulful singer and songwriter, describing happiness, loneliness and awkwardness in a sort of down-and-out, hard knock fashion that's simple and genuine.


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