Review Summary: All off, no spring.
I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest The Offspring fan out there, but I can at the very least assert the band have their own inimitable sound that instantly sends me back to my childhood when I put on one of their albums; after all, it’s impossible for me to hear “All I Want” and not imagine myself in utter bliss playing Crazy Taxi on my Sega Dreamcast. l could go further still and praise them for being one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen – a real testament to the band since I only saw them six years ago – or I could note the fervent fondness I have for their mid-to-late-nineties albums and the aforementioned nostalgia that goes with them. In short, the band have played a pertinent role in revolutionising the pop-punk model, and they are indeed a part of the pop-punk pantheon with contributions that can’t be overlooked. However, on a creative level, The Offspring’s greatness dimmed out twenty years ago. Despite their great live shows enduring, the noughties saw a string of middling albums that struggled to progress their sound in the right ways. For my part, this led to me becoming increasingly disinterested with their new material, as a little piece of that intense fun was being lost with every passing chapter. When “Cruising California (Bumpin' In My Trunk)” came out to promote their 2012 release, Days Go By
, it was the final nail in the coffin for The Offspring – they had lost their marbles and I had written them off for good. The irony here, however, is that years later I would go back to Days Go By
and be left dumbfounded by its quality: not only was it a really solid album, it was the best thing The Offspring had done since Conspiracy of One
Indeed, Days Go By
is responsible for reinvigorating my interest in the band again, and it taught me a very important lesson: don’t judge an entire album on just one single. I have maintained that lesson ever since, but the lead up to Let the Bad Times Roll
didn’t exactly draw out a mass of enthusiasm from me, considering the black cloud that was engulfing it. There was the woeful news bassist Greg K. had parted ways with the band in 2018 – Greg being the last founding member of The Offspring next to Dexter, and a member who had played in the band for thirty-four years! If nothing else, it’s deeply saddening to know relationships had deteriorated to the point where their issues could not be mended, but I digress. Greg’s departure aside, the album (or at least some form of it) had been in limbo for a number of years, going as far back as 2017 where Greg hinted at a possible release in 2018. Couple that with some pretty crappy singles and there’s cause to be somewhat worried about where this album was headed. After hearing Let the Bad Times Roll
in its entirety, it’s become almost impossible for me not to speculate on the final product.
Let’s point out the elephant in the room; Let the Bad Times Roll
’s production is outright dogsh-t. Imagine for a second, all of that blazing, breakneck energy the band are so well known for and have captured and documented so well on previous albums: the magnifying hooks, Dexter’s vigorous vocal performances, and the brickwall guitar riffs and tumbling drum rolls. Try and visualise and remember these traits – traits that make up the quintessential The Offspring sound. Now imagine all of that being compressed to a mere inch of its life, allowing for no breathing room or any dynamic to the songs and you’ll have an idea of what to expect here. Dexter’s vocals are so overproduced on this thing that when “This is Not Utopia” opened up, I actually thought it was a guest singing over the track because he sounded so unrecognisable. My naïve instinct was that maybe it was a one off, but in most cases here, he literally sounds as though he’s singing into a trash barrel chock full of reverb. It’s a shame too, because there are scuttling moments of hope found on “Coming for You”, “The Opioid Diaries” and “Hassan Chop” – the more traditional sounding The Offspring tracks here – where you can hear Dexter’s signature vocal work, but there’s something so damn off
about the way they are recorded here it just becomes more distracting than anything else. Terrible vocal wizardry aside, the music sounds as though it has had the energy castrated from the songs. Nothing feels as though it’s sitting in unison, as guitars, vocals and drums bleed into one another to create this formless, lifeless husk, void of nuance and layers.
It’s impossible to know if Let the Bad Times Roll
has Greg on any of it, but given the way they separated, it would suggest the further delays came from the band writing new tracks to avoid any legal issues. And that’s an important clue to consider here, because these songs sound, at best, half-baked. If the abominable production wasn’t a factor here, “Behind Your Walls” and “Army of One” would display some of The Offspring’s more revered aspects, but even then, they are hardly top-tier tunes when you dissect what they actually offer listeners. To make matters worse, there’s not a great deal of meat on the album when you look at the content being presented here. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” is an arbitrary cover with absolutely no context, “Gone Away” is a decent albeit pointless piano version of a song from Ixnay on the Hombre
, and “Lullaby” is a cheap outro with little consequence. Couple that with lyrics that lament a fifty-five-year-old dude not getting laid and name-dropping Donkey Kong and it just adds insult to injury. With a good production, some of these tracks could have been saved, but by all accounts, Let the Bad Times Roll
is the worst album The Offspring have ever made.