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At some point in their prolonged career, the Offspring thought it best to create banal, commercial-friendly tunes against the tradition of their Southern California punk roots.Unfortunately, that occurred years ago with the release of their major-label debut, "Ixnay on the Hombre,"
and their most recent concoction, "Splinter,"
only proves that the four-piece has failed to evolve since then.
Unlike their former counterparts in Bad Religion
, the Offspring succumbed to the demands of corporate America after gaining massive exposure through their critically acclaimed 1994 album, "Smash."
Their latest work stands as a testament to this. At best, "Splinter" is a botched effort to salvage the Offspring's credibility as a pioneering modern punk act. Under the most favorable circumstances, one would expect more maturity from a band that helped propel the new age pop garbage that now permeates a large sector of the airwaves -- groups such as Simple Plan and Good Charlotte. Nevertheless, their alternative integrity gave way ages ago and with the success of their past few releases in mind, it should come as no surprise that "Splinter" adheres to the basic three-chord catch formula that made the Offspring famous to begin with.
Musically, the album has nothing special to offer. Rarely does it highlight the striking talents of drummer extraordinaire Josh Freese
(The Vandals, A Perfect Circle), who the band enlisted to lay down beats following the untimely departure of original member Ron Welty
prior to recording. It does, however, exhibit the vocal contributions of legendary T.S.O.L frontman Jack Grisham
and outspoken Pennywise leader Jim Lindberg
Power chords and octaves aside, the band employs an excessive assortment of effects ranging from straightforward synthesizing to disc scratching, all reminiscent of the sounds that made ears bleed when "Pretty Fly (for a white guy)"
escaped from its cage back in '98.
This is painfully obvious in "The Worst Hangover Ever," possibly the album's worst song. Lacking any hint of lyrical intelligence, it suffers from an overload of unnecessary instrumentation comparable to the aborted product of a marriage between 311 and the Whalers.
"Spare me the Details," the album's 10th track, follows suit. Primarily an acoustic jig, the song is nothing short of a pre-pubescent rant concerning a lost girlfriend, a subject that has become too commonplace in the heart of popular music. Imagine a watered down version of Sheryl Crow's summer hit, "Soak up the Sun," and you'll get the idea.
For all its pitfalls, "Splinter" still manages to display traces of the unrefined ethic that made the Offspring's earlier work reputable in its own right. Particularly reflective of this are the album's 2nd and 11th songs, "The Noose" and "Da Hui," respectively. Despite being much more produced than any of the stuff recorded throughout the band's inaugural years, both are infused with a liveliness and vigor that lose their grip once "Hit That" takes a swing at the listener. In fact, "The Noose" sounds like a polished and up-tempo offshoot of "Session," the powerful opening track to the Offspring's 1992 brainchild, "Ignition." In addition to being the most philosophical song on the album, its bridge is comprised of seemingly morose chants similar to those employed in the most recent records of the surging NorCal quartet, AFI. On the whole, however, the dearth of quality recordings in "Splinter" suggest that the Offspring is just barely clinging on to the very ethic that launched them out of the independent west coast music scene in the late 1980s.
All things considered, "Splinter" is the definitive signal of the Offspring's demise. With the monotony of their last three records manifesting itself in this latest effort, the time has come for the band to hang up their boots and add themselves to the ever-growing list of has-beens. Now lead singer, Dexter, can focus his endeavors on rejuvenating his own Nitro records imprint, whose lineup has plummeted in unison with the Offspring's music, and the band itself can learn a lesson or two about what it really means to stand the test of time and maintain artistic integrity.