Everyone under a certain age remembers The Offspring. The energy, the frenetic, off-kilter drumming, the choruses that consisted of just 'whoa' and 'yeah' that still managed to speak to you on a deeper level, and the lyrical honesty and genius of Dexter Holland, who managed to match a scatter-brain delivery method with some of the most insightful and down to earth themes and thoughts of the 90s. The very first record my mum ever bought me and my sister was Americana. I would've been around 10, and from the day I first heard it to the present, I love that album. Regardless of recent and future deeds, this band will go down in rock history as unique and generational. And that is high praise indeed.
It isn't the mid-90s anymore. Your dad doesn't show the same interest in your musical tastes, it costs an entire pay-check to fill your car up with gas, and auto-tune roams the radiowaves like a big bearded poacher - slaughtering any notion of effortless talent or naturally created pop brilliance (see Pretty Fly For A White Guy). Computers fit in your pocket, and even The Offspring haven't been able to preserve their electronic virginity. Days Go By indeed, and with a lineup on the wrong side of 45, you feel there is some spitefulness in the title. The cover art is interesting, I can't help but mentally add the image of Dexter Holland in between the 2 characters, with a guitar and a slightly receding bleached hairline, thrashing out a heavy lick whilst the others watch on, muted and uninterested. The 2 age groups depicted are irrelevant to The Offspring, neither were past fans and neither will be future ones.
Days Go By starts strongly and finds the band in familiar territory. The first 3 tracks are all solid without breaking through in to spectacular, Dexter Holland's instantly recognisable voice booming out over the top of familiar-sounding guitars, and less than exciting drums. The Future Is Now has a similar feel to the brilliant opener on their previous album, Half-truism. A hard riff and a nice melodic chorus, 'And you get what you deserve / When revenge is what you serve'. Even the bridge is excellent. This recipe isn't tampered with either for the next two songs, which produces a solid but slightly wearing sounds. Dare I say, middle of the road sound, which is not something The Offspring is known for.
Turning In To You sees a return of my favourite aspect of an Offspring song: the drumming. Over the years they've laced their albums with tracks like this, rarely a lead single or their best performing song, but so unique and impactful that it has shaped and defined their sound regardless. This off-kilter, energetic frenetic pace, as the drums run out in front of the guitars and vocals and stick there for the length of the song. Dexter doesn't attempt to catch them, nor do the other contributors force their speed to match, and it's effect is quite dynamic. It denotes their addiction to punk and provides endless energy to even the most mundane songs, a testament to this is their ability to create gems that aren't featured on the singles list. On Turning In To You the chrous tightens the gap between the vocals and the drums, as Dexter ramps the pace up singing 'It's all I ever been, it's all I ever know / I try to be me, but I'm turning into you', before Parada revs his kit up again and speeds off towards the end of the song. The only other tracks on the album that feature this dynamic between the drums and the rest of the instruments are numbers 5 and 11, Hunting As One and Dividing By Zero, which is an exciting example that reminds me vividly of Americana days, maybe Staring At The Sun. This is when The Offspring are at their best, they create their own unique melody from scratch with such a simple execution.
Age is an interesting topic. It can mellow a person. It's been extensively said (it must be remembered, by those suffering from the afflication) that it provides wisdom, knowledge, subtlety, an appreciation for the world. None of those things are present on song number 6, Crusing California (Bumpin' In My Trunk). Even when The Offspring made tracks vaguely similar to this, such as Pretty Fly 14 years ago, it wasn't approached in such a demonically 'pop' way. I said earlier that they'd broken their electronic virginity. Well this is their first group outing so to speak. It's goppingly awful. I can understand the rationale - it's a summer party record, it's catchy-ish. Maybe. However, the chorus is detestable, it sounds like it's being sung by a female trying to impersonate Justin Timberlake. The lyrics.. Well. 'We have a good time / They all line up for a bump and grind / And the girl that you want is directly out in front / And she's waving her caboose at you / You sneeze achoo / She calls you out and boom' Dexter Holland is 46 years old! Does anyone want to see him bump and grind? Are we all picturing the caboose of a 46 year old woman right now? The rapping as well is just unforgiveable. In a past life Holland could absolutely get away with incorporating some spoken words, in fact the band was hailed in their early days as being indefinable for that very reason, such a variety in delivery was a top-billed asset. Now though, at this age, youthful exuberance is no longer a trait to be admired or that can be relied on.
This is not my only beef with the record. Previous Offspring work was endearing in it's ability to present simplicity that always hid a deeper or relatable message or meaning. Americana felt as though it was created so naturally, yet every song could be dug away at, exposing everyday truths. Smash, and the brilliant Conspiracy Of One were even cleaner examples of this. Even Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace felt tight and focused. Days Go By doesn't give off this feel. I Wanna Secret Family (With You) is a deplorable theme, and unfortunately coupled with the lead single Crusing California manages to derail the entire album. It is a pity, because there is still some good music here. Oc Guns gives off a rough South American vibe, 'Follow me to a bottomless sea / Come out on top underneath the palm trees' it takes a while to get in to gear lyrically but just after this section there are some excellent horns that reveal themselves, and the whole track grooves along beautifully. Dirty Magic, a re-recording of the track off 1992's Ignition, is also excellent, it's pure 90s punk. Unfortunately it serves as a reminder of just what The Offspring are capable of. It also chops the album up even further, such an odd thing to place it between Oc Guns, a clear stylistic detour, and I Wanna Secret Family (With You), one of the worst tracks not just on this album, but ever (see: 'It's too big to bag on, Gotta get my swag on' or 'First we went to the buffet / With the cell phone put away / Girl you dope like D.E.A.). It recovers with the final two tracks, Dividing By Zero and Slim Pickens, but the damage is sadly done.
5/10. It's 2012 and you or me shouldn't be expecting this band to come out with another Smash or Americana. What we should be expecting is a quality release from a quality band, filled with good rock songs and dusted with that Offspring magic that only this band is able to provide. What we've actually recieved is an album that feels lost and unfocused, that provides glimmers and moments of what it should have been, but then sledgehammers them with 2 songs in particular that desperately disappoint.
Best Tracks: Dirty Magic, OC Guns, Dividing By Zero, Turning Into You