Although it’s been six years since Rancid’s last album, with the band replacing longtime drummer Brett Reed with former Used member Branden Steineckert in the interim, on Let the Dominoes Fall the Bay Area punks sound like they haven’t been away at all. That’s both a good and a bad thing—the consistency is welcome when it produces catchy, driving anthems like lead single “Last One to Die” and the title track, but other than a few up-to-date political references, Dominoes is almost a complete retread of 2003’s Indestructible.
The band’s hiatus saw frontman Tim Armstrong record both a solo album of reggae songs and the sophomore album from his hip-hop-influenced side project The Transplants, but their potential influences (or Steineckert’s) are absent on Dominoes. There is a bit of a dance/reggae feel to “That’s Just the Way It Is Now,” and, of course, ska has always been a big part of Rancid’s sound. But ever since 1998’s diverse masterpiece Life Won’t Wait, the band has played it safe, and Dominoes follows in that vein.
Armstrong and fellow singer/guitarist Lars Frederiksen remain angry, railing against the state of the country on “Disconnected,” lamenting the effect the recession has had on the working class on “This Place” and character study “Lulu” and celebrating the troops on the lively “The Bravest Kids” and the melancholy “Civilian Ways,” one of the album’s few stylistic departures, a spare acoustic tune featuring mandolin and slide guitar. Rancid’s fire is undiminished, but a few more varied modes of expressing it couldn’t hurt.