Rancid — And Punk Rock — For The Troops
Rancid’s new record isn’t, sadly, good. Even more tragic is that two of the lamer numbers are odes to the resilience of the American war veteran, which is an extremely worthwhile sentiment. It’s like Rancid tried to make Devils & Dust and didn’t really succeed. As Tim tells Matt Schild, this was personal for him:
“Civilian Ways” drops the punk bluster for an acoustic ode about a soldier’s adjustment to life back home. Tackling the triumphs of rekindling old friendships on home turf as well as the alienation that comes with such a drastic change of scenery, the song was indirectly inspired by the time Armstrong’s brother, Greg, spent in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 with the 204th Military Police Company.
“As songwriters, we write about what we know, which means us,” Armstrong explains. “Having a family member in a war, especially my brother, who I love very much, is pretty heavy.”
I’m disinclined to devote much effort at criticism here out of respect for the sentiment being expressed. But is this really true:
Growing up in the working-class neighborhoods of Oakland, Calif., Frederiksen and Armstrong also got a glimpse at the realities of blue-collar life that many of today’s generation of suburbanized, middle-class punks never had. The split is, predictably, along class lines: Where many of Rancid’s college-educated contemporaries see active duty as an oppressive tool of The Man, Armstrong and Frederiksen aren’t afraid to acknowledge the bootstrap opportunities it has provided generations of young men and women.
OK, yes, there’s a superficial element of surprise here at punk rockers supporting the troops. But my sense — I have no real evidence here, admittedly — is that the blame-the-troops-for-the-war sentiment is a vestige of a generation that’s passed on. Punk rock, certainly since 9/11, is typically antiwar and prowarrior. Find me the anti-soldier song on the Rock Against Bush comps. The Bouncing Souls did "Letter From Iraq." The Dropkick Murphys did "Last Letter Home," which gave us the lyric I use for a headline over Afghanistan death notices. These are tributes. Unity is the most hardcore sentiment of all.