“What? You like The Offspring?”
This question has been drummed up in response to me talking about this band for about half my life now. Why yes, I do like The Offspring, sure I don’t own any of their albums other than the one I’m talking about, but the fact remains. You can blame my cousin, the same one responsible for getting me into these guys and these guys, only the latter in a less obvious way. He had this album too, and us both being pre-teenagers/early teenagers at the time, it was pretty much perfect. It’s punk-rock, only not as crappy, and it’s angry, but still has that sardonic angle that coming-of-age kids just love.
So is the album good? Well, it’s “good for punk rock”, in that, no it’s not very good, but if you look at a lot of the influences this band had and especially some of the bands this band influenced themselves, you’ll find this is pretty much cream of the crop.
None of that matters when you’re young, however, especially if you don’t know or care much about music. The fact is, these guys are shouting about people shooting each other in schools and cars and just guns in general, but in this way that you KNOW they’re not promoting it, they’re tearing down a system that allows it to exist. Plus, the lyrics are so concrete that even a pre-teen can understand what’s going on in songs like “Self Esteem” and “Not The One”. Plus, there’s a ton of cussing, but since this is 1994 we’re talking about, my CD copy does not have a Parental Advisory sticker on it. Whoops! Looks like I listened to music with cussing and am now, myself, a deviant!
The album is actually really well put together. For one, you’ve got a nice vocal intro of some relaxed guy telling you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the compact disc, after which of course is the first proper song with its typical driving punk beat. The guy revisits us a few songs in after the song “Genocide” and is present at the end of the album before an instrumental fadeout.
The hit singles on this album, which you will recognize by them not sounding like every other song, actually occur fairly late in the album, which is odd. The two biggest ones (at least in my mind) on this particular release are “Come Out And Play (Keep ‘m Seperated)”, the afore-mentioned song about bringing your guns to school (with the poignant “(if) You’re under 18, you won’t be doing any time”, and “Self-Esteem”, a song that is still played every single day on the damn radio.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t any rockin’ goodness early on in the album. In particular, “Bad Habit” is like the ultimate shout-along road rage song. Only, you know, you should probably not really gun down other motorists, but by the same token, you motorists who are not very good shouldn’t flip off other motorists for getting mad at you, because you never know who has been listening to too much Offspring.
“Gotta Get Away” is apparently another hit single, but I don’t remember ever hearing it outside of listening to the album myself. It’s pretty good but quite slow compared to the rest of the album (lead guitar with more than 1 note at a time? For shame!) It’s about schizophrenia, though, and I can get behind that.
“Genocide” is a “profound Generation X” styled song about something or other, but I can’t shake the fact that the first line in the chorus, which is “Dog Eat Dog”, sounds remarkably like “Donkey Kong”, so that’s how I’ve always heard the song. Some parodies write themselves, I guess.
Interestingly enough, starting from “Gotta Get Away” and right on through “Something To Believe In” is an interesting phenomenon, Early Album Slowdown. If I didn’t know the “hits” were coming up right around the corner, I might have skipped this album entirely, at least if I were listening to it today, which I am.
Thankfully, the next two songs are quite the party, but surely you have heard them by now, so I don’t have to say much else about them.
“It’ll Be A Long Time” brings the typical punk beat right back in, along with the political unrest. It’s a good enough song, for sure, but really if you want your political points to be known, you might try singing them to where people don’t have to read along with the lyrics sheet. Also, if you are going to make people read along on the lyrics sheet, maybe make the lyrics a font slightly bigger than that which requires a magnifying glass. Honestly though, if I felt like that it was an intentional move to make your lyrics undiscernable and then print the lyrics of your important words on microscopic font, I would award these guys a medal.
“Killboy Powerhead” is an interesting song, since it makes absolutely no sense at all. It’s also much more “punk rock” than even the punk songs from the earlier parts of the album, so kudos there, I suppose.
“What Happened To You?” is a much better song lyrically (not musically, it’s ska), and explores the dangers of drug abuse (see, The Offspring are socially responsible!) I’m not sure smoking too much marijuana is going to really kill you, the jury’s out on that one, but it will make you extraordinarily stupid, so I guess you might as well be dead at that point. Either way, it’s a song that would not work except in the back of the album, where the “extra” songs go.
“So Alone” is a song that wouldn’t even exist if I didn’t just say it does, it’s that short and tediously like the other filler songs. I do like the shouting, though.
Finally we’ve got “Not The One”, which ends the album on a stunning political note! Ok, so it’s not stunning, there were about 20 billboards on the way to this song saying “Political Song – Next Exit”, but really isn’t that the point of punk-rock? It just so happens that a couple of catchy alternative rock songs paved the way for this album to be not only one of the best-selling punk albums, but the number one best selling independent label album of all time! Luckily, having only one foot in the pond of American disestablishmentarianism means that the fans didn’t get all pissy when this band sold out… time and time again.
I never really got into The Offspring after Smash, I’ll admit, mainly because songs like “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)” and “Original Prankster” are far too irritating to warrant an entire album listening. Even as an early teenager, I knew this in my heart. Still, Smash is a good occasional listen, if for nothing else, than to elicit that ever-present question from anyone that knows me and my musical tastes:
“What? You like The Offspring?”