Record Label: Hellcat Records/Smelvis Records
So, where does one start with writing a review of one such album consisting of 54 Rancid cover songs of bands ranging from Anti-Flag to the Voodoo Glow Skulls? I thought about the many different directions that I wanted to take this. I could split it up into bands that I was familiar with and bands that I wasn’t, I could review each of the two discs separately, I could write about the best punk songs/ska songs/various genres separately, etc. or I could write 7056 paragraphs about each song individually. I decided that the best way to go about this review is to just ramble on about it aimlessly for a dozen paragraphs or so…just like every other review that I do!
First off, I want to point out that, over the years, it seems like Rancid has become a polarizing band for some reasons or another. People either love them or they absolutely hate them. I don’t know where the hatred comes from being that I’m definitely one of those people that have loved the band for nearly 20 years. In my opinion, they are the single most influential punk band of the last 25 years. This album is proof of their influence on not just punk and ska bands, but bands of many various genres that you wouldn’t quite pigeonhole into those categories. If you’re one of those that hate the band for whatever reason you choose, then why the fuck are you reading this review anyway? Go away now. It’s time for me to ramble.
Upon learning of the finalized tracklisting, I’m going to start with the bands that I was most anxious to hear. Being an old school ska punker, I was curious to hear what the ska bands had in store as well as what the takes on Rancid’s ska influenced tracks. Top of my list was hearing Big D and the Kids Table doing “Old Friend”, Mustard Plug’s take on “Roots Radicals”, Authority Zero doing “I Wanna Riot”, the Interrupters doing “The 11th Hour”, Voodoo Glow Skulls “The Brothels”, Deal’s Gone Bad “Antennas” , “Liberty and Freedom” by Monkey, “Daly City Train” by Johnny Madcap and the Distractions and “Time Bomb” by El Gran Silencio.
I was just as anxious to hear what some of my favorite bands were going to do with Rancid songs. To make a short list those would include Anti-Flag, Left Alone, the Street Dogs, Kevin Seconds, Kepi Ghoulie, Death By Stereo and the Koffin Kats. I just wanted to skip ahead to every song that was in one of the above categories, but there were also those tracks that were some of my favorite Rancid songs…and I’m not going to even list those…so I just played the album from start to finish…multiple times, mind you.
With all of the above nonsense in mind, here’s my consensus; this album is amazing! In so many ways. From the range of bands that appear on it, to the love and dedication that all of the bands put into covering a band that is so obviously important to them on some level or another, to hearing a favorite band do justice to a favorite Rancid song, to discovering a new band that took one of Rancid’s songs and made it their own or by a band doing something creative and unique with a song that was totally unexpected and to the sheer number of songs that make up “Hooligans United”. It’s easily double the amount of songs found on the mainstream Ramones or Clash tribute albums (which doesn’t do either of those bands justice).
Without getting into each and every track, I wanted to point out some of my personal favorites. I think that Big D and the Kids Table’s version of “Old Friend” is absolutely my favorite of all the tracks. It sounds like it was ripped right off of their Stomp and Stroll albums with the Doped Up Dollies helping out with vocals. I’m biased to this song not just because of my adoration of Big D, but because it is also one of my all-time favorite Rancid tunes.
Another favorite Rancid track of mine is done justice by another favorite band of mine with Left Alone covering “Black Derby Jacket”. For a time, it was quite rare to hear Matt Freeman taking lead vocals on songs. He came back with a vengeance with Rancid’s self-titled album in 2000, and I latched on to “Black Derby Jacket” straight quick. Here Left Alone slows things down with a folk punk take on the song that seems to tell more of the story in the song than originally realized.
What else stood out that I absolutely loved? There are so damn many good songs on here! I love the Spanish spoken ska cover of “Ruby Soho” by Inspector, Kevin Seconds gave me chills with his acoustic take on “Salvation”, Mad Sin totally tore up “Radio” with a crazy psychobilly cover, Mustard Plug, the Voodoo Glow Skulls, Deal’s Gone Bad, the Bunny Gang, Los Kung Fu Monkeys and the Interrupters didn’t disappoint with adding more ska flavor to some of the straightforward Rancid punk tracks while some fun and unique tracks are provided by the Reverend Payton’s Big Damn Band, the Phenomenauts, Kepi Ghoulie, the Briggs, the Mahones, the Tokyo Brave and the Shoplifters to name a few. And then you top it off with some crazy good bands doing some crazy good songs like Anti-Flag’s cover of “Maxwell Murder”, the Street Dogs covering “Avenues & Alleyways”, Hola Ghost’s spaghetti western rockabilly version of “Django”, the straight up hardcore fury of Death March’s version of “I Am Forever” or Manic Hispanic doing what they do best with “My Tia AKA Adina”. WHEW! And I thought that I wasn’t going to talk every song.
There are so many positives to “Hooligans United” that the negatives aren’t really negatives; more like personal preferences. I was disappointed with Authority Zero’s version of “I Wanna Riot”. I don’t know what I was expecting but they seem to have an apparent dislike of ska in their current quest to become the next Bad Religion. I was also disappointed with the Tossers cover of “Young Al Capone” for the fact that there aren’t any other Celtic bands represented on the album (Street Dogs aside, for the most part) and they decided to do a version that is closer to the original rather than cover the song in their own style. I would have loved to hear an Irish punk version of that song. I also believe that the Independents only decided to cover “Red Hot Moon” because it has the word “graveyard” in it. “Ghost Band” was already taken.
I’m bummed out that no one decided to cover songs like “Wrongful Suspicion”, “Poison”, “Rwanda”, “Listed M.I.A.”, “As One” or “Tenderloin”, but again…just personal preference and favorites. I’m fairly certain that they could have easily added another 30 songs to the album with ease.
I can’t even imagine the inordinate undertaking that was involved in putting together an album of this magnitude. I know one thing is for sure, it was most certainly a labor of love. Bands wouldn’t take part in something like this if there wasn’t some kind of love, influence or interest regarding the band that is being honored. I’d like to thank each and every person/band that was involved in bringing this sonic dose of musical enjoyment to mine and everyone else’s eardrums. It’s going to go down as not only one of my favorite tribute albums, but as one of my favorite albums of all time. “Hooligans United” is exactly what a tribute album should be. There are great bands covering great songs in great ways. With the vast amount of bands and varieties of styles and genres, there is just about something for everyone. Longtime fans will enjoy hearing old favorites in a different light while fans of some of the up and coming bands featured on the album may just discover Rancid for the very first time. I can relate to that. It is most definitely a good thing. Here’s to another 25 years of Rancid!
Bottom Line: This will either be a great introduction for fans of Rancid to the plethora of bands found on this album or a great introduction to fans of the bands featured to the greatness that is Rancid. I’m not quite sure which one yet, but I do know that this album is fucking sweet!
Notable Tracks:Too many to list but top 5 are Big D and the Kids Table “Old Friend”, Left Alone “Black Derby Jacket”, Mad Sin “Radio”, “Inspector “Ruby Soho”, Mustard Plug “Roots Radicals”