(Oi! The Boat Records)
For the longest time, Lars Fredriksen was that other “Mohawk-sporting dude” from Rancid that played guitar and would occasionally sing a song or two. Then, in 2001, he suddenly ducked out of the shadows for a taste of the limelight with his side project Lars Fredriksen and the Bastards. After two albums with ‘the Bastards (s/t and Viking) and a world tour, he seemed comfortable in proving his ability with his given solo success. Years rolled by while fans clamored for more of his straight-forward brand of punk rock. However, little was heard from Lars, aside from Rancid’s Let the Dominoes Fall. Well, wait no longer; after six years, L. Fred is back with an entirely new side project that features another able backing band. Aside from Lars, the three-piece, dubbed The Old Firm Casuals, is comprised of Casey Watson (of Look Back and Laugh & Never Healed) on bass and Paul Rivas (of Never Healed) manning the drum kit.
Leading up to the release of their new 7”, titled We Want the Lion’s Share, there was much speculation about how the ‘Casuals might sound. When the needle hits the record and the first chords belt out of your speakers, there’s no question this outfit had come for one thing, balls to the wall working class rock & roll brought with some boot tappin’ gusto. The material isn’t a far cry from Lars & the Bastards music; there’s just an acute accentuation on the OI! and the street punk side of things.
According to Lars, the 4 tracks on the EP were recorded in a rehearsal space on a 4-track (after only 4 months/ 9 practices together, mind you), and in as much is in stark contrast from the hi-fi production qualities of ‘Bastards and Rancid albums. In fact, it seems almost everything about the band was thrown together quickly for the sake of spontaneity (whether or not this was done to lend some street cred legitimacy is to be debated). Surprisingly, so far so good… to a point.
The EP cracks its lid with “Old Firm (D.M.S.)”, a fun bloody-knuckled romp on the streets with a crew of hoods and hooligans with just one slight setback, a particularly weak chorus (maybe it should have gotten the gang vocal treatment?). As it turns out, minute yet glaring flaws turn out to be a reoccurring theme throughout ‘Lion’s Share’s 10 minute running time. The second track “Lone Wolf” is a smash-mouth kicker that could have been plucked off of either of the aforementioned solo albums and goes off without a hitch. “Apocalypse Coming” is a solid mid-tempo head-bobbing jam, to which I would happily swill many a 40 ounce to, if it wasn’t for some (wait for it) annoying gang vocals that just seem to take the song from fresh to redundant every time they rear their ugly head. “Casual” also would be a killer call to arms for all the rowdy & raucous too, but with too many chants of “Let’s go, let’s go casual” and it’s a sinking ship bailing water.
The Old Firm casuals aren’t treading new ground, and there may be a few weak spots on We Want the Lion’s Share, but the EP will whet the appetite of fans that have been waiting for new material from Lars. Hopefully, there is more to come in the near future (and they take a little more care this next time around).