Ahh the bastion of melodic hardcore angst has attempted to rise again.
Is it 1998 and someone forgot to tell me? First nu-metal is making a return and now The Offspring have decided to release an album ‘for the times’. What does that even mean when you weren’t the most topical or political band in the first place? Sure they started like so many other bands questioning their surroundings and commenting on society’s ills, but if there is one band I have ever called a ‘sell out’ and meant it, it was these guys.
Yes, the early catalogue was good, but has anyone really kept up with them as they continued down a path of mediocrity and jokey singles that kept the next generation interested just long enough to buy the album and the t-shirt, but left their substance and morals at the door?
From the outset of opener This Is Not Utopia something’s off. Dexter Holland’s vocals sound different. It was once the most unique part of the band – and they still are – just no longer in a good way. Musically the track is the kind of throwback that The Offspring have been promising in the lead up to the release of this album, with a healthy guitar crunch and a venom that has been missing longer than it was ever around in the first place.
This wobbly but healthy start is quickly buried with whatever the hell you want to call the title track. The guitar tone is still strong but all the energy of the opener is lost in a mid-paced stomp that is just another novelty type tune this band is so guilty of churning out. Things come good again with the loose surf riffing of Army of One. Another reminder of what once made them so great, a punk snarl firmly fixed in place and the jangly guitar lines holding it all together in a way that SoCal punk was once so accustomed to. Quickly followed up by the only one-two punch on the album, Breaking These Bones covers some heavy personal lyrical content but carries the same aesthetic of the preceding track, making it feel as though this album would have made a great 7” release.
We Never Have Sex Anymore sounds like an older bloke just having a whine about how his marriage is in a rut, with a horn section to make it sound like a jolly little ditty attempting to lift the mood from its angry, old man ranting to your dad having a laugh on the piss. It’s the only place where Dexter’s vocals settle into how he sounded in his youth.
Back on track, The Opioid Diaries is a well paced track that brings back the intensity of the opener, one more reminder that even old dogs bite given enough chance. Beside their apparent constant requirement for novelty songs, The Offsping once tried to write a punk ballad. You all know it because it has always remained huge and, yes, Gone Away has been revamped. I was never a fan of the original and this piano vs Dexter Holland version is a curiosity if only for the nakedness of his vocal adding power to the song. Even for avowed nonfans, it isn’t the worst thing on this album.
Let the Bad Times Roll did leave me wanting to go back and fact-check my ears a little, so it can’t all be bad right? With a healthy start followed by a sagging middle before tripping over its own sandals, it’sa good metaphor for this band’s career. Take the good with the not so good. For the modern world streaming, where you get to pick and choose what you want to hear and when, this album is perfect: I get the little bit of hardcore attitude here and there, the wife gets all the novelty punk rock any sane person could handle. Best condensed into a 7” EP.
1. This is Not Utopia
2. Let the Bad Times Roll
3. Behind Your Walls
4. Army of One
5. Breaking These Bones
6. Coming For You
7. We Never Have Sex Anymore
8. In the Hall of the Mountain King
9. The Opioid Diaries
10. Hassan Chop
11. Gone Away