Review Summary: Not everything must be punk to be musical, but it must be creative, and this album could use a lot more creativity.
After their longest break yet (roughly 5 years), The Offspring come back with a new album called "Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace". While it shows some signs of life, the album generally lacks musicality and the "kick" that drove the early albums.
The band opens up with possibly the best song on album, "Half-Truism". With powerful guitar, complex vocals, and a well-executed performance, it sets a high standard for the rest of the album, and definitely keeps us wanting more. However, the songs that follow do not reach this bar - "Trust in You" is a fast-paced number, though nothing especially new or interesting. In fact, it sounds similar to another song on the album, "Takes Me Nowhere".
Next up is the single "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid". This hit song is surprisingly not as good as its hype, though it definitely stands out. Holland sings "dance, ***er, dance" in its main chorus - enough to get kids jumping around to this song. Other songs like "A Lot Like Me" and "Nothingtown" return to the post-Ixnay era sound, with a pop punk air.
"Hammerhead" was the first single, and it is another shiny number. Reckless and confident, Holland opens up with a military setting - of whose true nature is later revealed. "Stuff Is Messed Up" is a gigantic joke and proof that the band is finished lyrically. There's nothing in it that bands (including The Offspring) haven't done before, and simply criticizing American society isn't remotely creative.
What mars the album further are the songs that seem disconnected from The Offspring's potential. "Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?" explores the life of a teenage girl being sexually abused. While it is a meaningful topic, the effect is weak, especially the lyrics: "Can you stay strong?/Can you go on?/Kristy, are you doing okay?" It seems like something out of Disney, at which point one knows that stuff is indeed messed up. The song "Fix You" is a poor attempt at meaning; lyrically, it is one of the Offspring's worst moments. Complete with references to "God's tears" and combined with bland music, it stains the beauty of a few other songs on the album.
The final two songs are "Let's Hear It for Rock Bottom" and "Rise and Fall". The former is, again, nothing special. It is one of many fadeaway tracks on the album, but doesn't attempt at style or aplomb, as the Offspring had clearly achieved in albums like Ignition or Smash or even Splinter. The latter opens with a riff that screams Green Day - now it seems as if they've run out of ideas. Good thing it happened on the last track, or this album would have been worse.
In conclusion, RAFRAG has a few songs that are special and should be recognized, but other songs that pollute the experience. Not everything must be punk to be musical, but it must be creative, and this album could use a lot more creativity.
"A Lot Like Me"