I bought ‘…And Out Come The Wolves’ a few weeks after moving to Delaware. I got it because I liked the single ‘Time Bomb’ a lot. I had no real inkling I would be buying one of the seminal albums of my life.
The record came out in the summer of 1995. The cover was a tribute to Minor Threat’s debut, which happened to be an image I had spent my freshman year of college staring at two years prior. My roommate, who got me into some hardcore at the time I was getting deeper into punk and ska, had the poster on his wall. I hadn’t listened to Rancid prior. I had listened to some Operation Ivy like everyone else, but they weren’t the biggest thing on my radar, but man I loved “Time Bomb.”
It’s not a stretch to say that was probably my favorite song that year. I still love it. More than once I’ve worn a black coat, white shoes, and a black hat. Between this song, a deep love of 2 Tone Ska, and a commitment to never dressing like an adult, my fashion sense was set pretty early. The song felt like a mission statement at the time to me. I was depressed all the time and living in a place I didn’t want to be so I needed something that made me feel like I could still be the person I wanted to be and even though it’s basically about a drug dealer, it did the trick.
I don’t have a clear memory of the first time I listened to the album. It’s possible it knocked me unconscious. From the opening burst of “Maxwell Murder” to the closing chords of “The Way I feel” the album is overwhelming. There are 19 songs and all of them are amazing. I’m sure some people might argue about one or two of them, but those people are wrong, every song is a certified classic. Seriously. Stop reading for a minute and go look at the tracklist, I’ll wait. Are you back? So which is a weak link? None of them right? Sure “Ruby Soho” is a better song than “The Wars End” but the gap isn’t huge.
My friend Mario and I have talked about our top five on the album and even that is a difficult exercise. Gun to my head I’d go with “Time Bomb”, “Ruby Soho”, “Roots Radicals”, “As Wicked”, and “Journey to the End of the East Bay.” You can’t tell in reading this but it took me more than half an hour to write that top five. Half an hour. I’m either insane or this album is just that good. It’s probably both.
“Time Bomb” I’ve explained. “Ruby Soho” and “Roots Radicals” feel self-explanatory. Those three songs were the singles and they’re all incredible songs. I listened to a podcast recently where they asked about albums where the singles weren’t the best songs. This isn’t one of them. They’re just seminal songs. “Roots Radicals” feels to me like the warcry of punk in the 90s. I’m sure it’s too commercial or whatever for some but honest to God, get over yourselves.
After the big three singles, “As Wicked” and “Journey to the End of the East Bay” are right there. “Journey” has possibly the most memorable line on the entire record:
I said this ain’t to Mecca man, this place is fucked.
The song is about the San Francisco bay area and Operation Ivy, but it was also about wherever you happened to be living when you heard it. It’s the kind of song that gets at the heart of the discontent we all feel when we’re stuck in a place we don’t want to be.
“As Wicked” is about how shitty the world is. It’s not the deepest song on the album and it doesn’t really have to be. The little bass riff and then the driving guitar that opens the song is enough. Toss in the chorus that I’ve screamed along to, too many times to count, and you have a perfect punk rock song.
Every song on the album finds that place inside of us where we try to contain the tear-inducing rage at the world and gives it voice. Like the lyrics of “Avenues and Alleyways” scream:
I’m a battering ram comin’ through to you
In every alleyway and every avenue
Oi, Oi, Oi indeed.
The other major theme of the album is displacement. It comes up in “Journey to the End of the East Bay” and somewhat more prominently in “Olympia, Wa.” The whole of “Olympia, Wa” is about being in New York and wanting to go the hell home. I tend to have a reverse reaction and almost always find myself wishing I was in New York, but the sentiment works. Around the same time this album came out I had a crush on a woman who was from Olympia, Washington, so it had some extra resonance for me. When I eventually played it for her she hated it. That wasn’t the reason it never went anywhere, but looking back I can’t remember why it didn’t but I do remember she hated the song, so take that as you will.
“…And Out Come The Wolves” was a perfect album that hit a kid who was lost, lonely, and depressed and made me feel known and heard. It’s up there for me with the various Mighty Mighty Bosstones albums in terms of my pantheon and music that came out in the mid-90s that shaped who I’ve been since.
Despite how important the album was, I never got very heavily into Rancid. I have a few albums and have always enjoyed them but none of them ever hit the same way.
I didn’t see Rancid live until 2018 at ‘Camp Punk in Drublic’ is a nowhere place called Hebron, Ohio. Rancid was the closing band of the weekend. They came on after the Mighty Mighty Bosstones at the end of a long day that went from pouring rain to baking heat. I was exhausted but still ready to go when they took the stage. I was up front about four or five people back of the rail when they started playing. I normally like being up front in the crush of people for shows but this was different. Something like 5000 pushed forward at the same time and I was lifted off my feet. Rancid was on stage playing “Radio” and I was in the crowd being crushed. I’m a big dude. I have never once been lifted off my feet at a concert, nevermind in such a way that I was completely at the crowd’s mercy.
You’d think I would have been terrified, but honest to God the only thought in my head was, “Well at least I got to see Rancid finally.”