The Offspring’s new album, “Days Go By,” is set for wide release later this month, but was available in its entirety as a stream on Rolling Stone. So I decided to partner with the two biggest Offspring fans I know, Dave Ross and Daniel Suhr, to review each song and give general reactions to the album. Dan and I discussed the album via Skype, and Dave gave his thoughts a few days later, as he was globetrotting at the time.
Dan: Alright, first song, “The Future is Now.” Title has me intrigued, and so does the opening guitar riff. So far, win. I actually really like this one, it has all the elements of a good Offspring song: Dexter Holland’s high-flying vocals, simple guitar riffs, but not too simple, and a decent enough chorus hook.
Me: Agreed on all counts. It does bear mentioning, though, that it sounds more like a Rise Against song rather than an Offspring one.
Dan: I can see that, but it’s still close in sound to “Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace.”
Me: Fair point. But I think we agree, this is a strong song to get the album started.
Dan: Overall, good start to the album. Second song?
Me: Alright, “Secrets From the Underground.”
Dan: This song reminds me of the sadder Offspring songs, think “Gone Away,” but faster. Or “The Kids Aren’t Alright.”
Me: I’ll buy that. It had a nice chord progression that we normally see with those types of Offspring songs. The chorus is probably the best part of the song. Very powerful overlapping vocals, nice tempo.
Dan: Overall good. I think there’s a reason why you listen to albums a few times before making a final judgment.
Me: Honestly my only critique of the song is the slowed down portion at the end. It’s unnecessary, doesn’t add anything, and is kind of redundant since “The Future is Now” did the same thing.
Dan: Yes, very redudant, but you can’t get too upset about that. It’s pretty typical of bands. Taking it on its own, good song.
Me: Easily one of the strongest on the album, and one of their best in recent memory, by my reckoning.
Dan: Agreed. “Days Go By” now?
Me: What, you mean “Times Like These”?
Dan: Prototypical single song. Nothing very special honestly.
Me: It’s a prototypical Foo Fighters single.
Dan: A good radio song, yes, but exactly. Very Foo Fighters. The bridge guitar riff is pretty cool though!
Me: No surprise, that’s a good radio band right there. It’s kind of disappointing to see they chose this song as a single, especially given how strong the singles for “Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace” were. Well, except for the song-that-shall-not-be-named, of course.
Dan: OTHER than that, it’s nothing special but acceptable in my humble opinion.
Me: Acceptable is probably the best word to describe it. But what about the next song, “Turning Into You”?
Dan: I feel like we keep hearing the same song over and over, and it doesn’t help that the lyrics are pretty much like every single song of the same topic. “I’m trying to be me, but I’m turning into you”? Really? You’re better than this.
Me: Could not agree more. At best, it’s a worse version of “Secrets from the Underground,” and at worst it’s a reject straight off a Good Charlotte album.
Dan: You would think a band as old as the Offspring would be done with the identity crisis of adolescence.
Me: Young at heart, man.
Dan: That Ph.D. says otherwise…
Me: Dr. Young at heart, then.
Dan: Apparently. Next song, “Hurting as One.”
Me: Speaking of the crisis of adolescense…
Dan: This is much more Offspring-y. Much much better.
Me: I was actually pleasantly surprised. I thought from the title that it would be more of the uninspired same, but I liked it. It probably helps that it’s a much more acceptable 2:50, as opposed to how long some of the other songs have been.
Dan: Definitely helpful. But it reminds me a lot of “Conspiracy of One,” which is a fantastic album. And then we move to the abomination…
Me: Ugh, do we have to?
Dan: Yes. This song is just plain awful.
Me: OK, fine. I think, I THINK that they were trying to do something like “Hit That” and have a tongue-in-cheek parody of popular music at the time but, it’s just not funny enough for that.
Dan: A part of me wants to think that this is their way of making fun of the industry. When I first heard this song, I was hopeful it would be put into context. Maybe the whole album would be ironic and make fun of the state of music. But no. In the context of the album I can’t support that theory.
Me: “The girl with the gloss and the g-string just like floss”? Oh, come on.
Dan: It burnnnnssssssss.
Me: Oh, for the sake of the record, we’re talking about the album’s second single, “Cruising California (Bumpin’ in My Trunk).” It’s so bad I almost don’t want to see them on their next tour, just because they’ll play this song.
Dan: I will see them, and then I will boo them. Because that’s what they deserve for this piece of drivel.
Me: Hey, at least they’ll play songs off “Ignition” as an apology. OK, onto “All I Have Left is You.”
Dan: Is this “Beat It”? Oh, I guess not.
Me: I wish … Is it just me, or do half the titles of these songs sound like what an angsty middle-schooler would title his poetry?
Dan: Did someone hurt you Dexter? Someone hurt you.
Me: The Offspring just don’t do these types of songs well. Aside from “Gone Away,” of course.
Dan: Which is gold. GOLD. This … This is … I don’t really even know what this is. Not the Offspring I grew to love.
Me: It’s “Kristy Are You Doing Okay?” all over again. And that’s not a good thing. At all. Which means it will probably be the next single off the album.
Dan: At least that song you could sit through and then be excited for the next song.
Me: A good rule of thumb: If your song sounds like something that could accompany an episode-ending montage of “Grey’s Anatomy,” scrap it.
Dan: That is the best advice you could give any punk band ever. Well said.
Me: But is this truly a punk album? “OC Guns” would beg to differ.
Dan: On first listen, I remember this song being bad. On second listen … Same thought.
Me: The thing is, as far as reggae songs go, it’s pretty good. But I can’t take Dexter Holland seriously when he’s singing in Spanish.
Dan: The chorus is annoying. Tiki tiki tiki tiki what? WHY?
Me: It feels like I fell asleep and the CD switched over to some second-rate Sublime knockoff.
Dan: And he’s doing a pretty atrocious job of rolling his R’s. This, coming from a guy who can’t speak a phrase of Spanish after three years in high school Spanish.
Me: Someone get him a jar of peanut butter, stat! OK, now the money question, is this worse than “Cruising California”?
Dan: I think it is on par. They both disgust me in ways that music shouldn’t be allowed to.
Me: It’s like choosing between Katy Perry or that one awful ska band we saw here in Tucson. I choose neither.
Dan: Precisely, next song. FAN SERVICE. But’s fan service I appreciate. Updated “Dirty Magic”? Gold.
Me: A re-release to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the excellent “Ignition” album. It’s almost unfair to compare it to the rest of the album, so how do you think it compares to the original release?
Dan: I feel like it’s the way they would play it live, and the Offspring live is amazing. So I’ll take the updated version.
Me: But there is something charming about how cheap the original sounds. It makes you feel like they recorded it in someone’s garage.
Dan: Fair enough. I think some of the charm that comes with listening to the Offspring is how great some of their albums are, front to back. On its own, I’d take this version. But “Ignition” is a far superior album and anyone listening should just do that. Next song, “I Wanna Secret Family (With You),: is right back to the angsty songs which we complained about earlier.
Me: I feel like it is kind of self-aware though. I get the sense it’s not meant to be taken seriously.
Dan: Hmmm … Perhaps. I still don’t think it’s a very good song.
Me: Fair is fair.
Dan: “Dividing by Zero” sticks with old Offspring principles of punk, and thus is a great song.
Me: I agree on “Dividing by Zero.” It’s the best song on the album so far.
Dan: Absolutely. It almost makes up for how bad a few of the songs are, but we are reviewing an album. And the album is extremely disappointing.
Me: We’ll get to that in a second. But, last song. “Slim Pickens Does The Right Thing And Rides The Bomb To Hell.”
Dan: I read that the title was a reference to the Kubrick film “Dr. Strangelove.”
Me: That alone makes it awesome.
Dan: I agree. Again, the word acceptable comes to mind while I listen to the song.
Me: I think this is where we have to disagree. I loved this song.
Dan: It sticks out on this album, but only because most of the album isn’t very good. Or maybe I need to listen to it again…
Me: Maybe that’s it. But alright, let’s look at the album as a whole. To me, it’s like serving a bologna sandwich on really fine artisan bread. The first few songs and the last few songs are pretty good, but the stuff in the middle is pretty dang bad.
Dan: And that’s a nice way of putting it.
Me: Got to keep it PG, Dan.
Dan: My statement serves to fill the gap between my real feelings and PG. Context. If you skip the “OC Guns” and “Bumpin’ In My Trunk,” the album isn’t half bad. Not as good as previous albums, but definitely different in its own right. And that’s something you really want from bands.
Me: Especially if the band has been around as long as The Offspring.
Dan: Songs settle after you first listen and gain their own charm. I think that a few songs will do that. It’s disappointing only because Offspring albums tend to be good from start to finish.
Me: But that begs the question. this is their second consecutive album produced by Bob Rock. Is this album better or worse than “Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace”?
Dan: I would definitely say worse.
Me: I would agree, but I sometimes feel that we are in the minority of Offspring fans that enjoyed “Rise and Fall,” at least in portions. Maybe that album was such a drastic departure from older Offspring albums that it caught fans off guard and this one represents a continuation along that same path.
Dan: It’s not something all that surprising. Bands orient themselves toward more pop-rock as they get older (and more skilled, ironic if you want to take a swing at pop music). With that said, there’s still aspects of old Offspring which I love. Then there’s new Offspring which I think I need time to take in. If the future is “Bumpin’ in my Trunk,” I don’t want anything to do with it. If it’s cool pop culture references in the song title … that’s another story.
Me: On that, we are in full agreement. But let’s hit the rundown. What’s your favorite song on the album and why?
Dan: “Divide by Zero.” First, math. Second, because it’s similar to old Offspring, but just enough “new Offspring” to make me look forward to further releases.
Me: Agreed. It comes down to that or “Secrets from the Underground” for me. I don’t think we need to further expand on the worst song on the album, do we?
Dan: Virtual tie, in my mind. So no.
Me: They are both horrid, let’s leave it at that. But now the $20 (or however much albums cost these days) question: Is this the worst Offspring album ever?
Dan: Yes. But to be fair, that’s not a hard distinction to make considering the competition. I think that’s part that makes reviewing albums so difficult. You want to compare them to previous releases (which is the reason why you might be a fan in the first place). I think that the album is reachable to NEW fans, which will then lead them to their old albums. As an older fan, I would say that I can listen to all the other albums over and over that I don’t need new releases. Though, at least there are a few songs on the album that I can add to list of great Offspring works.
Me: If this album draws new fans to the older works of The Offspring, then I think it’s a worthwhile release. I also don’t mind them experimenting and trying new genres, since that’s been a staple of theirs for awhile. Honestly, I think that if this was just a carbon copy of “Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace” I probably would have enjoyed it more as an album, but been more disappointed by it, if that makes any sense.
Dan: I know what you mean. You want bands to experiment. Getting the same music over and over is no way to be a great band.
Me: Agreed. We don’t need any Tim Burton bands.
Dan: No thank you.
Me: Last question, and probably the most important: Should people buy this album?
Dan: Always support bands that have had a history of good music. It keeps them going. This album might not be the best to own a physical copy for the kids, but that’s why we have the online option, right?
Me: I will gladly buy it, as I’ve bought every other Offspring album, as a sign of respect for one of the most influential, and best, punk bands ever.
Dan: Good man.
And now for Dave’s take:
So, here’s my take on the album. I tend to organize my thoughts better in list form, so here we go:
On the album as a whole:
- Comparing it to older Offspring albums, I give it a 7/10. My favorite being Americana (10/10) followed by Ixnay (9/10). My least favorite has to be Splinter (5/10).
- Only 9 songs? Hmm….
- Sort of seems like they’re straying more and more from their Smash roots. They seem to have lost a lot of their edginess, which made me a big fan in the first place.
- “Cruising California”… #smh
- Dexter’s voice has some miles on it. Can’t blame him though.
- Overall, a very chill addition to their collection.
- In comparison to their previous albums, it’s kind of refreshing in a way.
- Better than “Rise and Fall,” mostly because less is more.
- Pete Parada does some nice things on drums.
- “All I Have Left Is You” would be an OK song if it wasn’t by The Offspring.
The Future Is Now – Rise Against? Yet not finished I feel … But still good. 8/10
Secrets From The Underground – Very cool song with great beat. Edgy. 9/10
Days Go By – Chill song, yet shows the aging of the band both in lyrics and delivery. 8/10
Turning Into You – Kind of high schoolish. Not bad, not terribly great. 5/10
Hurting As One – A nice old school feel. Enjoyed it a lot. 8/10
Cruising California – Their traditional fun/goofy song off the album. Bit too fun for me. 5/10
All I Have Left Is You – Chill yet sappy song. Very un-Offspring-ish though. 6/10
OC Guns – Huh? Not for me, sorry. 4/10
Dirty Magic – An interesting mix of previous songs, yet I can’t quite point out which ones. Despite this, it’s a welcome case of déjà vu. 7/10
- They’re getting old. Get over it.
- Strange feel, but pretty decent.
- Solid addition to any collection. Yes, buy it.