Some 15 or so years after Lars and his Bastards stepped out from the shadow of Rancid, Pirates Press have given his back-catalogue the deluxe reissue treatment as well as serving up a bonus serving in shape of a Live & Loud album. So let’s wind the clock back to sometime around the year 2000. Lars had just completed a tour with Rancid supporting the Indestructible album and evidently had a few musical ghosts that needed exorcising. So without too much fuss, he went back into the studio with Rancid partner-in-arms Tim Armstrong to lay those demons to rest and thus the self-titled debut album was born. It’s hard to listen to this without hearing the musical blood of the main breadwinner coursing through Lars’ veins and some of the songs here would be right at home nestled on a Rancid album. Other tracks are of the era too – despite its slide guitar work Subterranean has something of a Transplants feel to it especially where the vocals are concerned. Some of the other tracks sound a little more spontaneous, almost as if Lars was desperate to record the riffs and shouts just as they were developing in his hands and head. Highlight for me is the album closer Vietnam. At first I thought it would be a punked up version of the Jimmy Cliff classic reggae tune, but this is 4 minutes of pure Californian punk rock which reminds me of classic Adolescents.
Fast- forward a couple of years, and the second album Viking dropped in 2004. This time around you can hear that although the ship had not yet found its home port, troubadour Lars was more settled with the crew of punk rockers he had assembled around him – loosely speaking you can see this almost as a meeting of minds from members of Rancid and The Forgotten. The sound this time is more confident and although perhaps less urgent it is no less brash. Stylistically you can hear the foundations being laid for the Old Firm Casuals sound – songs like 1% could be added to the OFC set and no-one would bat an eyelid. Sixteen songs on here mean a blend of short fast hardcore blasts, foot-stomping punk anthems and some more introspective moments on My Life and The Viking. In particular the closing track formed part of the soundtrack of Summer 2005 as I made a road trip with a couple of mates, ending up in Marseille and days spent drinking in the sun with the likes of Deadline, Born From Pain, Knuckledust and the French punx. Happy times and this album brings back great memories.
And now onto the bonus package – the Live & Loud album. As mentioned earlier, the debut album was recorded on the back of extensive touring with Rancid, so what better platform to let these songs flex their wings than in the live setting. It’s clear that the musicians are seasoned tour dogs who live and breathe the stage, the dancefloor, the stinky backstage rooms and of course the bar. This live recording from Rochester, New York State is from 2001 and captures the intensity of the debut album with the audience putting added fire into the veins. Wrap this bastard in a Link Records style Live & Loud cover and you have yourselves an essential piece of punk rock history right here. Tom Chapman