Twenty years ago today, Rancid changed my life. I don’t remember where I was when I first listened to … And Out Come the Wolves, but I remember who I was. I was a dorky 16-year-old boy named Ashley. Unremarkable in almost every way, pretending that I liked almost anything if it made people stop making fun of my name for even one second. Like a lot of kids, I found peace and escape through music, but growing up in the affluent, preppy community of Coral Springs in South Florida really limited my exposure to good music. The local rock stations played whatever grunge and alternative rock was blowing up at the time, but I didn’t care about a lot of those bands. I pretended to, but in 1995 I was still waiting to be blown away.
Back when MTV used to give a sh*t about music and gave bands a fighting chance to win a broad audience and mass appeal, Alternative Nation became my favorite show. Also, nothing was better than the 6-7 video block each morning before school, because that’s when unknown bands like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Everclear entered my life. But Rancid didn’t show up on my radar until Beavis and Butthead watched the video for “Nihilism” and I suddenly froze and asked myself, “What the hell is this awesomeness?”
Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen looked like two guys who would make me piss my pants in fear if I met them in person, but holy sh*t were they the coolest. My best friend at the time had become buddies with the only punk rock guy we knew in our town, a guy named Ian Grushka, who would go on to become the bass player for A New Found Glory, and he’d occasionally introduce us to some new bands. After hearing “Nihilism,” and eventually “Radio,” which became an anthem for me, I was obsessed with Rancid. So when I heard that this band had a new album coming out, I used what little money I had to buy the CD. I didn’t have many albums then, so actually buying a CD for $18 in 1995 was like buying a car today. It was huge. But … And Out Come the Wolves was worth every goddamned penny.
Eventually Rancid blew up because of the music videos for “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho,” both of which were catchy songs, but I feel bad for anyone that began and ended their relationship with the band with those hits. This album has 19 songs on it, which was sort of unbelievable at the time, considering most albums had 12 songs and maybe three great tracks. Every damn song on … And Out Comes the Wolves was and remains a banger, to borrow a term that I don’t necessarily understand, and this album, to this day, is mandatory on any device I own. In fact, it’s the only complete album in my entire playlist. If music is my religion, … And Out Come the Wolves is my bible.
Again, I don’t remember where I was when “Maxwell Murder” started playing, but I was probably in my friend’s garage smoking Marlboro Reds and generally being a douchebag. However, I always remember the emotions that I felt when listening to important songs and albums for the first time, and even today, when I hear “TOOK THE 60 BUS OUTTA DOWNTOWN CAMPBELL…” I know exactly what I felt 20 years ago. I felt free. I felt happy. I felt understood. And I wasn’t a punk at all. In fact, I was as preppy and dorky as they came, but these songs made me feel special and invoked a creative identity in me that I struggled to accept and appreciate for most of my youth. This album made me want to create things, and it made me unashamed to try. It made me sneak out at night to go to concerts at a dirthole venue called The Edge, and it made me discover bands like Pennywise, Lagwagon, Bad Religion, and Less Than Jake, and I will never ever be able to thank Rancid enough for waking me up and inspiring me.
In my senior year of high school, my friends and I started a ska band called Disco Stu and the Fabulous Horn Kings, and we were terrible. Well, the lead singer was terrible. The other guys were immensely talented. But I didn’t care about not being able to carry a tune, because Tim, Lars, and Matt Freeman made me want to scream sh*t and throw water bottles and spit and curse, because it was so damn cool. And if I could go back and tell teenage Burnsy one thing right now, it would be “Don’t skip out on that guitar lesson, you dipsh*t, because when you’re in your 30s and the guitar hooks on ‘Olympia WA’ and ‘As Wicked’ are still rocking your f*cking brain like it’s the first time you heard it, you’re going to regret it.” Then again, I’m kind of glad I never even tried to learn to play one of these songs, because Tim Armstrong is a guitar god, and you simply don’t try to climb Olympus.
When I was young, my mom listened to the Moody Blues a lot, and I thought they were horrible, but I remember wondering what music I’d be listening to when my own child was growing up. I’m welcoming a son into the world soon, and I know the answer to that question now, because I look forward to playing … And Out Come the Wolves for him. There’s a chance he’ll hate this album like I hated “Days of Future Passed” (remember, that’s a past-tense hatred), but I’m pretty confident he won’t. Probably because it’s the greatest album I’ve ever listened to.