By Gabe Meline
Life on the road can be a smorgasbord of hijinks and mayhem for a punk-rock singer, but when I think back to a two-month period spent with Russ Rankin traveling across Europe, I recall an unusually centered personality who just happened to get onstage every night to scream his head off. It is a testament to his calmness that only a few small details remain lodged in my memory: dedicated to punk rock as a whole, his favorite albums include 7 Seconds’ The Crew, Consolidated’s Friendly Fascism and Government Issue’s Boycott Stabb. His personal ethics lean strongly toward veganism and straightedge (a tattoo on his leg shows the Statue of Liberty pouring out a liquor bottle), and a portion of the proceeds from his music is charitably donated to Food Not Bombs. He’s no stranger to a good laugh, and one of his favorite movies, viewed over and over between reading Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, is the Paul Newman ice-hockey farce Slap Shot.
Rankin is what those in the punk-rock scene call a “lifer,” and it’s because of his measured expulsion of energy that he still has a wealth of it left. Twenty years after the long-running punk band Good Riddance emerged as his eventual life’s work, Rankin’s idea of a good time remains getting up onstage and screaming his head off. Now, as the frontman for the more hardcore-oriented Only Crime, he’s upped his own ante. Backed by veterans of bands like Converge, GWAR and Black Flag, Rankin has sworn off any notion of pop songwriting and given himself a heavy stock in which his lyrics simmer. It’s a workout, and here’s hoping his stamina (exercised by recent turns at ice hockey, no less) can continue to keep up with his ambition.
Only Crime performs this Friday, Feb. 2, with New Mexican Disaster Squad and Snag at the Phoenix Theater. 201 E. Washington St., Petaluma. 8pm. $10. 707.762.3565.