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"Rancid," by Rancid; "Radar," by 34 Satellite 

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Rancid, "Rancid" (Hellcat Records) — With the release of Rancid's fifth album, we see the band not only make the move to its new label, Hellcat Records (which is run by Rancid founding member and frontman Tim Armstrong), but also hear the band reintroduce some of the old-school hard-core punk it got away from on its last two records. Rancid's "California thrash meets The Clash" sound remains intact, only now the maniacal speed of some of the songs has returned to a point not seen since the band's second album "Let's Go." "Rancid" contains 22 tracks of standard Rancid fare. Songs with lyrics about personal politics and individual life experiences are backed by a musical juggernaut comprised of strong choruses, impressive bass fills, screeching guitars and galloping drums. The lyrics do, however, stray into the uncharted waters of genocide in "Rwanda," and into the scandal surrounding the early television game show "$64,000 Question" with "Rigged On A Fix." The album's lyrics are intelligently written and contain a great deal more substance than those found in any number of run-of-the-mill punk outfits. While this may not be my all-time-favorite Rancid record, it's still a great band with a number of great songs left in it. — Angelo DeFranzo 34 satellite, "Radar," (Hideaway) — Fronted by singer-songwriter-guitarist Marc Benning, this four-man outfit's second CD is a pleasing mix of rocked-up bravura and thoughtful, laid-back pop. Benning's songs are often steeped in dreams of runaway love or the search for the sweet rewards in "a place where no one knows," but the tunes boast authentic heart. Augmented by bassist Mike Santoro, guitarist Marc Smith and drummer Mark Boquist, Benning sings his songs with a lost lilt that at times carries a straight-ahead and weary stamp, and at other times, rages raw with stoic energy. It doesn't hurt that there are doses of stinging melodic guitar, big bass drums and haunting harmonies mixed with reminders of a less juiced-up version of a Replacements-style free-for-all. Best of all, however, is the sense of dynamics throughout. Tunes such as "Vertigo" and "Remember" rock with the crunch of high-profile guitar, while "You" and "Fly Now" bring ballad sounds to the fore. There may not be anything here to sweep a listener into the throes of ecstasy, but 34 satellite's "Radar" rings with a multilayered sound that should please those looking for some intelligent, promising pop-rock. — Ames Arnold
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