For more than 25 years, Good Riddance has written tuneful punk anthems that take on injustice in all forms, from social to political to personal. That spirit drove classic albums like For God and Country, A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion, and Ballads from the Revolution, and it carries through to the new Thoughts and Prayers (Fat Wreck Chords, July 19), Good Riddance’s second album since reforming in 2012.
As a voice of resistance through four presidential administrations, Good Riddance seems well-suited for these fraught times—but don’t expect a bunch of obvious anti-45 screeds.
“I don’t particularly want to write about a person, but I’m keen to write about the undercurrent and political and social climate that could bring about the ascension of somebody like that—because I feel like, unfortunately, that’s going to be more timeless,” says vocalist Russ Rankin.
But the anxiety and anger of the day is palpable on Thoughts and Prayers, a title taken from the inane platitudes spouted by politicians after mass shootings. “Our Great Divide” reflects the unprecedented polarization of American society over a classic three-chord progression and breakneck beat. “No King But Caesar” warily eyes the destructiveness of complacency, and the dire warning of “Pox Americana” would be too much to bear without its vocal harmonies and soaring guitar. But Thoughts and Prayers isn’t without light. Opener “Edmund Pettus Bridge” imagines “one billion hearts entwined in revolution,” and “Wish You Well” boasts one of the catchiest choruses of Good Riddance’s long discography.
Produced and mixed once again by Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore—who’ve helmed every Good Riddance album since 1999’s Operation Phoenix—Thoughts and Prayers boasts the band’s signature sound of highly melodic, fast-paced punk, but with a new wrinkle: a song sung mostly in Spanish, “Lo Que Sucede.”
“I always wanted to push myself to write a song in Spanish,” Rankin says. “I can speak Spanish pretty well, and I’ve always thought that punk and hardcore songs sung in Spanish sound especially pissed off.”
“Especially pissed off” applies to Thoughts and Prayers in general, considering the issues Good Riddance has sung about for nearly three decades have not only remained, but worsened. “I had this naive thought when our band first started that we’re going to change the world, and we’re going to open people’s eyes to the injustices of the world,” Rankin says. Good Riddance may not have changed the world, they’ve opened plenty of eyes. Fans constantly tell the band how their music introduced them to vegetarianism, social awareness, and political action.
“Just because you can’t see tangible change right in front of your face doesn’t mean that it’s not happening,” Rankin says. “You don’t know the positive effect you can change in the world by just sort of pushing against reality every day, pushing against the arbitrary boundaries that are set up for us by the status quo. That’s what keeps us going.”
Thoughts and Prayers will be available July 19, and $.50 from each sale will be donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank and Never Again MSD. It follows 2015’s Peace in Our Time, which Punknews hailed as “an awesome return,” Scene Point Blank called “as good of a comeback as we could have expected,” and Dying Scene simply said “fucking rules.”