Wednesday, July 9

Breaking up With Bastard Offspring

Artist: The Offspring
Album: Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace

Comments: I need to learn how to let go.

Most of the punks let go of The Offspring after Ixnay on the Hombre, their last consistently good album, the last that balanced pop-radio hooks with their So-Cal hardcore, “fuck it all” attitude. The rest of the world let go sometime around ’99, right around the same time “Why Don’t You Get a Job” fell off of MTV’s top-10 countdown TRL. Indeed, it seems like Americana was the last time any sane person gave a shit about The Offspring, even if that album served as a nail in the coffin to the punk set, pitching the band as little else than novelty.

Of course, I am not a sane person. I still dreamed of the better days, the days of “Elders” and “Dirty Magic” and “Come Out and Play” from the Smash era; you know, back when the band was still making punk music. And so, like a stupid person, I stuck with the band through the crappy Conspiracy of One and the sometimes-but-not-thoroughly crappy Splinter. No matter how bad the band got, no matter how much they began falling back on jokey, novelty songs based on pop culture trends in an effort to recapture their “Pretty Fly (For a While Guy)” popularity, I couldn’t let go of this band. This band that I used to listen to on the school bus, before basketball games, after dinner, before bed; I had to stick with them.

Now, almost 20 years since the band’s debut, I can finally let go. Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace has pulled me from madness, slapped me in the face, and allowed me to let go. The Offspring I love are gone.

Where Splinter was somewhat of a revival of both spirit and sound, Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace sounds like a surrender. Easily the most produced album of the band’s career, there are no sharp edges or rough patches to this music. Everything is as glossy and superficial as a used car salesman’s haircut. Cuts like “Half-Trusim” and “Trust in You” have more in common with modern top 40 rock radio, say Daughtry or Nickelback, than they do with “Self Esteem” or “All I Want.” The guitars are boosted, the drums are standard 4/4 snare and hi-hat fare, and lead singer Dexter Holland’s eternally nasal vocals are as auto-tuned as the next Cute is What We Aim For album.

The songs are generic and formulaic in their stadium, rock radio ready way before even taking into account the lyrics, which are generic and sappy and offer almost no emotional truth whatsoever. Everything is discussed in vague, clich├ęd terms, be it the state of the world or the state of relationships (the very average ballad “Kristy, Are You Doing Ok?” is one of the best on the album, and that is not a good thing).

Also worth noting is the horrible, horrible “Stuff is Messed Up,” a 15-car-pileup of a song This track features the worst kind of verbal diarrhea. The content and presentation of this “protest” song is so abysmal that it makes me want to go back through the entire Offspring catalogue and see if they’ve always been this deplorably immature and ill-spoken. “Stuff is Messed Up” is easily one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard, so repulsive and empty that I want to turn my Offspring discography into a series of $15 coasters.

There is one tolerable song on the album. “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” is a dance-punk song. The lyrics aren’t bad, the hook is catchy, and the band has always operated well within a dance-y setting. If there is anything worth taking away, it is this one song; a familiar, safe retread of well-worn ground.

Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace
is my pardon, my final way out from a band I once loved. I can only hope that this is it. Let this last album, this final embarrassment, be a footnote in the career of a band that peaked early and spent the rest of their career fighting the good fight, trying and failing like so many to prolong the magic. Whether or not the band goes on, I can promise this: this is the last Offspring album I will ever spend money on. Godspeed and farewell boys.

Rating: 1.5 out of 10

Key Tracks: You're Gonna go Far, Kid

Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip

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