New Offspring album will ‘splinter’ fans

By Nick Romanow, Collegian Staff

The Offspring


Columbia Records

By Nick Romanow

Collegian Staff

In 1994 The Offspring were amongst the leaders of a pack of young musicians – including Green Day and Rancid – who were determined to bring back punk. Their hit album, “Smash,” was groundbreaking, but not in the way that the band combined punk attitude and pace with pop melodies. After all, bands like Husker Du were doing that well before The Offspring had even formed – but in the way that it mainstreamed punk while maintaining integrity.

The band had huge hits with songs such as “Come Out And Play (Keep ‘Em Separated)” and “Self Esteem,” and while The Offspring weren’t quite hardcore enough for some “punks,” they found themselves millions of adoring fans, punks and non-punks. They also found themselves a place in the history books with “Smash,” one of the greatest, if not the greatest, selling indie album of all time. Not only that, but The Offspring found themselves as one of the main bands to jump-start the ’90s pop-punk movement that brought punk more into the mainstream than ever before.

Then The Offspring found themselves in a curious position. Their success (along with them leaving Epitaph Record for the major label Columbia) made them easy targets for the finicky, insanely strict and laughable nonsensical punk community. The Offspring were branded sellouts and have found themselves unfairly targeted by punk purists, pop purists and everyone in between. The fact of the matter, though, is that love ’em or hate ’em, The Offspring are not sellouts.

While punk rebellion has been so watered down and commercialized by bands like Good Charlotte and blink-182, any open ear can tell that The Offspring are serious when they let out their rebel yells. It’s fitting, then, that the band opens their seventh album, “Splinter” with the lyrics: “We are strong / We are right / We won’t be pushed aside / We’ll go on / We will fight / We will not compromise / We will never lose to you.” Is this a mantra for today’s disaffected youth or the battle cry of a band unfairly accused by everyone – from their first fans to today’s rock critics – of selling out?

The true beauty of The Offspring is that that the answer to that question is – both.

The band proves they still have the goods on the very next song, “The Noose,” a reeling, fast-paced anthem that is classic Offspring and one of their best songs to date. And it’s not just a matter of one great song; The Offspring prove on “Splinter” that they are still a force to be reckoned with. It’s the combination of songs like “The Noose” and other fairly expected Offspring tunes like “Long Way Home” and the break-neck “Da Hui” with the more experimental songs that truly define the Offspring sound.

In fact, those aforementioned punk purists who shun The Offspring for songs such as “Race Against Myself” need look no further than songs like “Dirty Magic,” from the band’s 1992 “Ignition” album, to see that The Offspring have never really been a straight punk band. The only difference between the band’s more recent albums and their first are really just the recording quality and this should not be a complaint. “Splinter” truly shines as a recorded album, the bass thumps and the guitar cuts, just the way it should.

“Splinter” really follows directly in the footsteps of the bands previous album, 2001’s “Conspiracy Of One,” and while “Splinter” is an excellent record it never quite reaches the marvels of the previous, severely underappreciated and undersold, album. “Race Against Myself” is reminiscent of “Denial, Revisited” from “Conspiracy Of One,” and the balance of the familiar Offspring pop-punk and the band’s more experimental side is pretty much at the same ratio as “Conspiracy Of One,” although “Splinter” leans a bit more towards the standard sound.

It is, unfortunately, important to note how relatively poorly “Conspiracy Of One” did. One can’t help but think that the album’s disappointing sales would negatively affect the bands ambition; luckily there are no signs of this yet. Aside from “The Noose,” the album’s other stand-out track, “Spare Me The Details,” is far less typical. The song features an acoustic guitar in the foreground but is far away from acoustic punk songs like Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life).”

“Spare Me…” is just the opposite; actually, it’s an upbeat, viciously catchy song with a strong rhythmic backing and a decidedly un-Offspring keyboard line. In it, frontman Dexter Holland laments his unfaithful girlfriend and his friends who keep telling him the story of her unfaithful activity. Although on paper the lyrics look painful and spiteful, the song’s sheer catchiness makes it impossible not to bob up and down as Holland sings, “I’m not the one who acted like a ho / Why must I be the one who has to go / I’m not the one who messed up big time / So spare me the details of last night.”

Holland’s clever and, at times, silly lyrics have long been one of the main draws to The Offspring and he certainly does not disappoint on the new record. The lead-off single, the aforementioned “Hit That” is a slightly silly song but is thankfully infinitely better than recent Offspring hits such as “Original Prankster” from “Conspiracy Of One” and “Why Don’t You Get A Job?” from 1998’s “Americana.” In fact, “Hit That” is a modern youth-culture parody/commentary on the same level as “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy),” although “Hit That” should prove to stand the test of time much better than the overplayed-to-death “Pretty Fly.”

“Splinter” isn’t without its own slight annoyances though. “Worst Hangover Ever” is a ska-tinged song with a predictable punchline. It’s not annoying on the same level as “Original Prankster” or “…Get A Job” but it doesn’t add much to the album and most listeners will probably find themselves skipping over it by the third or fourth listen. The last track “When You’re In Prison” is completely, 100 percent different from anything The Offspring have ever done.

It’s a very odd, old-fashioned sounding song where the only prominent sounds area curious vocalist (that sounds nothing like Holland), a simple, almost old-time cartoony horn and string line, and a popping, old-vinyl effect. The song’s lyrics are, well, an instruction guide to get by in prison without attracting any, uh, unwanted attention. The song is not painful to listen to, it’s not even that annoying, the ‘don’t pick up the soap’ lyrics, though slightly predictable, warrant a few chuckles, however the listener may find themselves skipping this song after a couple plays.

“Splinter” is a very good album and true Offspring fans (not those looking for raw, violent punk or those looking for cheap novelty singles) should find a lot to appreciate. While “Splinter” is not The Offspring’s best album, it certainly holds its own and listeners with an open mind could find themselves listening to this album as much as any other Offspring release. The audience that enjoyed “Conspiracy Of One” will particularly enjoy “Splinter.” However, if there’s any justice for these long running, but still going, punks, “Splinter” will sell the way “Conspiracy Of One” should have.