A Season of Songs: Unwritten Rules

Today is the first day of Spring and I thought I’d start a new project that’ll I’ll try to sustain through the entire season.  Each day gonna hit shuffle on the old iPod and whatever song comes up I’m going to write about – well, about the song, the album, the band, whatever related things come up in response to the song.

Today’s first song is “Unwritten Rules” by Rancid, the 14th track on their 1993 self-titled debut album.

boomin’ out the speakers and amps in the hood
i like to drink beer play music and go to shows
it’s not about paying your dues if you do it out of love
i’m not a jaded junkie running dry
i don’t know anything else
i’ll be playing till i die

This album came out the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college.  I had gotten into punk my freshman year and the whole East Bay thing was about to blow up.  I had fallen in love with Operation Ivy and although I remember the initial Rancid EP not doing much for me, I picked up this album (on cassette) over the summer (I’m assuming at Play It Again records in Bethlehem, PA).  It would become one of the most heavily played records of that summer and to do this day the album gets regular rotation.  From the initial “Let’s Gooooo!” the album never really lets up. The lyrics took a big U-turn from what you were used to with Op Ivy.  Positivity.  Unity.  Gone. It’s not that those things weren’t there at all, but a darkness overtook the worldview.  That world view seemed perfectly summed up in the first song Adina – “how did she know the roof would cave in, over and over again, beat up bruised a record that’s broken, adina’s crying again”.

I would pretty much end up writing off all future Rancid releases.  I’m not sure why, since as I previously stated, I continued to listen to this album regularly.  Many many years later Emma would put “Journey to the End of the East Bay” on a mixtape for me.  It caused me to revisit “…And Out Come the Wolves” and I’ve since really come to love that album as well.  When Emma and I went to San Francisco for our honeymoon, we visited Gilman Street/Berkeley and the line “this ain’t no mecca man, this place is fucked” was at the forefront of our minds.

This song, Unwritten Rules, isn’t my favorite on the album, but the album overall is a classic, a great listen and highly recommended.

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