Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Certain Songs #1821: Rancid – “Black Derby Jacket” | Medialoper

Album: Rancid
Year: 2000

. . .

After widening their sound with 1998’s Life Won’t Wait, Rancid narrowed it down to a full hardcore road just two years later with 2000’s Rancid, the second self-titled record in their career.

Cramming 22 songs into a little over 40 minutes, Rancid plays a bit like a hardcore version of Alien Lanes, though — as hardcore does — far more consistent, with most of the songs clocking in under two minutes and some of them practically over before they begin. So when you got a longer one — the epic “Radio Havana” at 3:42, they kinda stood out. As did the songs sung by bassist Matt Freeman, who hadn’t sung any leads at all on the previous two.

Books on Emerson, books on Thoreau
But all I read was maps of the road
I was three thousand miles away from you
All the while I was twenty-two
What do you do to know who you are?
The best way for me to drop out on tour
You went up to New York to go to school
To secure the roll with your parents

Freeman’s vocals were at the heart of my favorite on Rancid, “Black Derby Jacket,” written by Tim Armstrong, but clearly from Freeman’s POV, which was probably easy cos they’d known each other since they were kids, when they would wear the titular jackets to shield from the East Bay cold.

I never needed much, I never liked to loom
But a gesture can get me from across the room
The first night we talked until while the sun caught up
Transparent people melting all around us
You left in a plane, I left in a van
Played nightclubs, house parties, and auditoriums
Saw Germany, England, Italy with my band
I know you better than your new friends

So if Armstrong sang with a mush-mouthed word-swallow and Lars Frederiksen could do entire stadium shout-alongs by himself, then Freeman was a classic hardcore growler — as an amazing YouTube comment on this song from someone called “kingleper” put it: “I grew a beard from listening to Matt’s singing” — who totally and utterly nailed the torrent of words Armstrong wrote for him about a relationship defined by distance.

Ford Econoline September ’93
Driving 10 hours until my eyes are blurry
3 packs of Winstons and a bag of seeds
Tapes of X and a thermos of coffee
6 weeks on and 10 days off
Then I go back on the road for another show
This is all that I’ve ever done
Girl I got nothing to fall back on

Also torrential: the music — I mean, duh! — lead by drummer Brent Reed, who pretty much plays lightning-quick surfabilly rolls on his snare drum pretty much the entire fucking time, only switching to his hi-hat after the monumental full-kit rolls that led to the chorus.

But I got a new perspective on you
All the good and bad that we went through
I know you better than you know you
Cause I got a new perspective on you

The first two times they play that chorus, they speed right into it, and slow down to catch their breath while Freeman pummels his bass a bit while catching his breath to start singing. But on the last chorus, everybody slows down, and it’s just Freeman and his bass and it’s — well, tender is probably the wrong word, so how about — heartwarming, to say the least. The aural equivalent of the opening of the video when the camera goes to Tim Armstrong, and he directs it to Freeman.

“Black Derby Jacket” official video

“Black Derby Jacket” live in Tokyo, 2003

“Black Derby Jacket” Tim Timebomb version, 2013

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