THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

A raging takedown of hard times

By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / May 31, 2009
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Rancid roars back to life after a six-year hiatus with "Let the Dominoes Fall," an album that reminds listeners of the virtues of economy and conviction. The Bay area punk-rock quartet blazes through 19 tracks in less than an hour, offering short, familiar blasts of percolating ska-punk rhythms (some under two minutes) and righteous indignation.

As usual, the band members are none too happy with the status quo: "People going crazy, situation code red, and the whole world's out of control," they chant on "Dominoes Fall" with their trademark blend of rage and vulnerability.

Elsewhere they decry the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in "New Orleans" with a furious ascending guitar line; show despair over political schisms in this country on the angry, fidgety "Disconnected"; and celebrate their survival with a joyful group chorus on "Last One to Die."

The album's stunner is actually it's longest track, "Civilian Ways," a chilling mandolin-laced ballad sung from the point of view of a soldier haunted by war. But "Let the Dominoes Fall" reminds us that the right music can offer temporary salvation from any ill - be it political corruption, romantic destruction, or natural disaster. Opener "East Bay Night" sums up that manifesto: "We'll hear a punk-rock song and we'll sing along/ Everything gonna be alright."

Sometimes observing that a band keeps making the same record is an insult. Not so with Rancid - and not when the records are this good.

SARAH RODMAN