Chances are if you have heard of Rancid you already know who Matt Freeman is. Most notably known for his exceptional bass playing abilities he also is the man behind the gruff gritty vocals sometimes heard on Rancid tracks as well as being a founding member of Operation Ivy.
Not just limiting him solely as a member of Rancid, over the years Freeman has played with legendary X member Exene Cervenka in Auntie Christ, stepped in with Social Distortion, as well as started his own band behind the scenes called Devil’s Brigade.
Devil’s Brigade is a psychobilly/punk rock side project started in 2000 with fellow band mate Tim Armstrong between Rancid tours. The project yielded a couple of EPs and some of the songs were featured on Hellcat Records Give Em The Boot compilations but a formal album never was released. After Rancid released Let The Dominos Fall in 2009 Freeman decided that it was time to head to the studio and make something of his project.
At first Freeman was hoping to record a musical about the “Half Way To Hell Club”, a name that was given to those who fell off the Golden Gate Bridge during its construction and fell into a safety net. Although Freeman skipped the idea of the musical, he did take six of the songs he wrote for the musical along with original Devil’s Brigade songs and decided to put them together on an album.
Enlisting Armstrong as well as DJ Bonebrake, another member of X fame, they entered the studio earlier this year and recorded the self titled release. With Freeman taking vocal duties he also decided to play stand up bass throughout while Armstrong played guitar and DJ Bonebrake on drums. Dropping at the end of August, the album will mark yet another consecutive release by a member of Rancid on Hellcat Records proving that they have no intentions of quitting anytime soon.
“I’m Moving Through” opens the album full forced with Freeman’s indistinguishable singing backed by his bass playing immediately grabbing my attention. “My Own Man Now” really did not sound anything outside of Rancid but nonetheless was still enjoyable and carried that Bay City punk sound I have been fond of half my life. “Shake Down” followed with Freeman slapping his stand up bass singing about his “25 years of punk, rock, and roll”.
“Bridge Of Gold”, featuring Armstrong and Lars Frederickson, was a noteworthy song about the building of the Golden Gate Bridge and was one of my favorite cuts off the album. I loved the old barroom jam sound with the piano in the background and just the reference itself to a 1930’s wonder of the world.
“Ride Harley Ride” was a mysterious biker tune with an almost Natural Born Killers feel to it. “Vampire Girl” repeated “I want to get rid of you” throughout the twangy psychobilly tune. “Gentleman Of The Road” was another track I really enjoyed with xylophone, a distinct bass line, and outlaw story to follow. Closing the album was the working man’s “Half Way To Hell”, another track I really appreciated due to the guitar playing and history contained within.
It’s easy for someone to assume that this is just another Rancid release, but once you hear the album your opinion will be changed. Of course it is going to sound like Rancid here and there, look who’s in it. Once you actually sit back and listen you will understand that it is a Matt Freeman project full of what he enjoys to do. He has branched in his own direction with his musical talent just like Lars Frederickson & the Bastards did as well as the Transplants.
The album is enjoyable all around without any lulls in between. Freeman has no trouble displaying his musical abilities from slapping the bass to screaming in the mic. I am glad he finally decided to do something with Devil’s Brigade finally. What was just a spare time thing at one time has incorporated into something so much more.
Devils Brigade Tour Dates:
Sept 7 – San Antonio, TX – White Rabbit
Sept 9 – St. Petersburg, FL – State Theatre
Sept 10 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Revolution
Sept 11 – Orlando, FL – Firestone Live
Sept 12 – Jacksonville Beach, FL – Freebird Café
Sept 13 – Charleston, SC – The Oasis
Sept 14 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
Sept 16 – Washington, DC – Rock and Roll Hotel
Sept 17 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts
Sept 18 – New York City, NY – The Gramercy Theatre
Sept 19 – Pawtucket, RI – The Met Café
Sept 21 – Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom
Sept 22 – Pittsburgh, PA – Diesel
Sept 23 – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
Sept 24 – Hamtramck, MI – Small’s
Sept 25 – Chicago, IL – Reggies Rock Club
Sept 26 – St. Louis, MO – Firebird
Sept 28 – Dallas, TX – The Loft
Sept 29 – Austin, TX – Red Seven
Oct 7 – Tempe, AZ – The Clubhouse
Oct 8 – Santa Ana, CA – Galaxy Theatre
Oct 9 – Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre
Oct 16 – San Francisco, CA – Slim’s
Oct 19 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
Oct 20 – Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
Oct 21 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory Concert House
Oct 22 – Salt Lake City, UT – Club Sound
Oct 23 – Denver, CO – Marquis Theatre
Oct 24 – Colorado Springs, CO – Black Sheep