What’s hot in music is usually also what gets you paid. Sometimes groups find themselves in a situation where they are (or are about to be) hot, and out come the wolves.
Checkbooks previously snapped shut open wide, with toothy grins to boot. More often than not, bands go for the highest bidder. And why not? Who knows how long it will last?
Obviously, there is something to be said for sticking it out with those who got you started. With And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid not only had to prove that sticking with Epitaph was what was best for them, but also had to prove that they could break out and create a distinctive sound amidst the mid-90s punk revival. Looking back, it’s clear that the band made the right move.
And Out Come the Wolves is the sound of a heavily influenced band finding their own sound. More importantly, however, it’s the sound of a band reasserting and reinventing the staples of their genre in the midst of immense and immediate popularity. Wolves may not be the most uniform album – it’s a little too long for that – but the standouts far outweigh any filler.
It’s no wonder that the album’s three biggest hit – “Roots Radicals,” “Time Bomb,” and “Ruby Soho” – gained Rancid their heaviest MTV airplay ever. Not that they ever really cared. What makes And Out Come the Wolves great is not how popular, or even how memorable the album’s biggest songs are. What makes it great is how Rancid, even in those popular songs, re-calibrated what it meant to be a punk band.
And Out Come the Wolves combines all the elements of a great punk album, but with a style that set a new standard for the genre. Tim Armstrong hit his stride in terms of his mangy vocal style, and Lars Fredericksen kept the choruses coming. You would be hard pressed to find a more versatile drum and bass duo in a punk band than Matt Freeman and Brett Reed. Indeed, Freeman became the new standard for aspiring punk bassists.
The ability of Reed and Freeman to range into all roots of punk is truly what enabled Rancid do what they set out to do with the album – create a bonafide punk album steeped in the genre’s roots, but at the same time bring the sudden influx of punk fans up to speed with what had been going on with the genre while it lay dormant underground through the 80’s.
Armstrong in particular now stood out as something new with that never before or since heard delivery. The entire band came into their own on Wolves and became the band that would serve as a constant reminder of the tenets of more than a genre, but a lifestyle.