Review Summary: Probably The Offspring's best effort in ten years, but that's not saying too much.
It has been long enough since The Offspring released a new album. It’s hard for me to believe that Americana is already ten years behind them and the pop punk piece of poo Conspiracy of One is a long eight. Since then, they’ve come out with Splinter, a fair album that sported some good heavier punk songs but was ruined by crappy silly ones, and now, five years later, Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. Now if you think about that title for a minute (ya, its basically stolen from the Foo Fighters) and then look at that album artwork (it actually doesn’t have a skull on it) you can probably guess some things already about this album. It is possible, from reading the very meaningful title and looking at that dark cover, that without even hearing Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, you have already surmised that this is a more serious and deeply emotional record and that it doesn’t contain any silly songs. This is true about the new album. The number of joke songs on Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace is a big zero. So does this mean all twelve of the tracks are catchy Offspring signature punk rock tunes combined with a little extra emotion than usual? No, actually it doesn’t. On Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace we find that there are some real classic Offspring punk songs, there are some average sounding ones, and than finally, there are the slow, deeply emotional tracks. Those tracks are the ones that set this new album apart from any previous one by The Offspring, and they, I must say, are rather disappointing. But lets get to the good stuff first.
When I first heard Hammerhead, the new single from the album, I was satisfied, not too amazed, but happy to hear that The Offspring were on the right track. Hammerhead is a real hard rock song with a heavy drumbeat and a catchy chorus. Dexter Holland spits out fine lyrics about war while Greg K. shows off his bass playing in a grasping switch in tempo towards the end of the song. Hammerhead is placed at the beginning of Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace along side three other similar tracks of its kind that seem to be very serious and emotional while at the same time hard rocking and punky. This is true, satisfying Offspring that kicks off the new album really nicely. This time around the veteran punksters ditch the pointless intros that have appeared on some of their previous releases and waste no time getting to the music. They jump right in with the opener Half-Truism, easily a memorable song with its chugging guitar and extremely catchy chorus. Holland’s voice sounds surprisingly good and energetic already showing much improvement over his performances on Splinter. Half-Truism and others make Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace sound like an Offspring record should, but as the album continues, the band decides to throw in some variety and we all know now there wont be any silly songs so…
Now, on the record, The Offspring decide to get super slow and emotional. They present A Lot Like Me. Upon hearing this song, I couldn’t help burying my face in my hands with disbelief and disgust. The first thing you hear on A Lot Like Me is a slow, wildly boring but forceful piano line followed by Holland’s echoing voice; ugh. The song ends up sounding like a Gone Away wan-a-be complete with epic choruses and deep emotional singing over an isolated bass line. It’s not so terrible that you’ll rip your eardrums off, but the song drags on and is way overly emotional and generic. Overall, it doesn’t feel quite right for The Offspring. Unfortunately, A Lot Like Me is not the only slow, emotional, and generic song that Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace has to offer. Thrown in with it is Kristy, Are You Doing Okay? and Fix You. Kristy becomes the third Offspring song ever to feature an acoustic guitar and it doesn’t just play a little role like usual because yes, we have an acoustic ballad on our hands. Kristy sounds like what an acoustic ballad should sound like. It’s uplifting, emotional, and passionate. Though there is nothing unique about it as it feels like just your general ballad. Fix You is presented in a similar style to A Lot Like Me, and its probably the best slow song of the three on Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace with its more beautiful approach. Unfortunately, it still comes off just as generic and boring as the other two. These slow, emotional songs bring the album down, but they seem to create variety in the record, which is good considering the band has stuck with playing the same style on albums before, and this doesn’t always turn out so pretty.
Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace has generally three types of songs: The hard rocking ones towards the beginning, the slow ones, and than the lighter punk songs that are thrown in here and there. These songs, such as Stuff Is Messed Up, sound as if The Offspring were really having fun making this album. Some of them are nothing special; just your average power chord driven anthems with catchy choruses. Others, such as Nothingtown and the closer Rise and Fall, sound surprisingly similar to Green Day as the guitar and bass bear a lighter and more uplifting ring while the drumming keeps the songs moving. These songs are in contrast to those at the beginning of the album and are just as enjoyable sounding. Overall, adding them in with the more emotional ones makes for a very strong and mostly diverse album. On Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, The Offspring generally show they still know how to make good, simple punk music. While not every track stands out in the bunch and the slower songs are almost as generic and boring as a song could possibly be, this album is quite satisfying and enjoyable. In no way does Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace compare to The Offspring’s punk masterpieces of the mid 90’s but, with a more serious approach and those crappy silly songs gone, it definitely stands as an improvement over their more recent works.
Rise and Fall
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