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Rancid

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One of the cornerstone bands of the '90s punk revival, Rancid's unabashedly classicist sound drew heavily from the Clash's early records, echoing their left-leaning politics and fascination with ska, while adding a bit of post-hardcore crunch. While some critics dismissed Rancid as derivative, others praised their political commitment, surging energy, and undeniable way with a hook. And, regardless of critical debate over their significance, the band's strengths made them perhaps the most popular neo-punk band after Green Day and the Offspring. Their third album, 1995's ...And Out Come the Wolves, made them a platinum-selling sensation and an inescapable presence on MTV and modern rock radio. While they never translated that success into an enormous blockbuster record (like the aforementioned bands who hit the mainstream first), that wasn't necessarily their ambition, choosing to stay with the independent punk label Epitaph and the creative freedom it allowed them. That decision helped them retain a large, devoted core audience as revivalist punk-pop began to slip off the mainstream's musical radar.

Rancid were formed in 1991 by San Francisco Bay Area punk scenesters Tim Armstrong (guitar/vocals) and Matt Freeman (bass). Lifelong friends and longtime punk fans, the two had grown up together in the small, working-class town of Albany, near Berkeley; they'd also played together in the legendary ska-punk band Operation Ivy, Armstrong as "Lint" and Freeman as Matt McCall. After Op Ivy disbanded in 1989, Armstrong and Freeman spent a few weeks in the ska-punk outfit Dance Hall Crashers, as well as Downfall; Freeman later briefly joined the hardcore band MDC. Meanwhile, Armstrong was waging a battle with alcoholism (but, fortunately, winning), and to help keep his friend occupied, Freeman suggested they escape their day jobs by forming a new band, which became Rancid. The duo added drummer Brett Reed, Armstrong's roommate and a familiar presence on the Gilman Street scene where Operation Ivy had cut their teeth. Just a couple of months later, Rancid were performing live around the area, and in 1992 they released a five-song debut EP on Lookout! Records.

The EP caught the attention of Brett Gurewitz and his well-respected Epitaph label, which signed Rancid to a highly favorable contract guaranteeing them a generous amount of creative control. The band's eponymously titled, first full-length album arrived in 1993, pursuing an up-tempo, hardcore/skatepunk style with few hints of early British punk. Rancid had been seeking a second guitarist, and Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong even played live with the group at one show. They pursued Lars Frederiksen, a Bay Area resident who'd joined a later incarnation of U.K. Subs and was performing with the band Slip; Frederiksen initially declined Rancid's invitation to join, but when Slip disbanded, he quickly changed his mind and came along on Rancid's first tour. Frederiksen made his recording debut on the early-1994 EP Radio Radio Radio, a side dalliance on Fat Wreck Chords. Released later that year, Let's Go was the album that made Rancid's name in the punk underground. It marked the beginnings of their fascination with the 1977-era London punk scene, particularly the Clash,

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