Review Summary: Following up the biggest independent release in history can be a task, but The Offspring takes risks to make this Columbia records debut an album to remember.
When following up a successful career starting album, there are many different directions that can be taken. There is what’s called the carbon copy
, which repeats similar formulas and tries to recreate what made them as successful as they were. There is the mature
route, where a band tries to expand on their song writing skills and more complexed instrumentals. There is also the lets do something completely different, no matter what people might think
state of mind, which is the case for the 1997 major label debut follow-up to the most successful independent release in music history.
At this time The Offspring has made a name for themselves, being a straight forward punk band with a metal-esque edge just smart enough to play the mainstream. Smash
broke records with consistent air play, steady billboard charting, and coverage on the ever so popular MTV. All of this wouldn't have been made possible if Green Day hadn't broke punk to the masses, but being on Epitaph during the explosion is quite impressive. After some dispute involving Brent Gurentz, head of Epitaph, The Offspring left and signed to Columbia, where they would have more creative freedom. Ixnay On The Hombre
is one of those albums that expands and differentiate in nearly every way from previous efforts. The direction is never straight forward, as many influences and diversion is quite fluent. The Offspring was able to create an album to fit the pop needs for the mainstream, while still having a raw feel from previous efforts. Which by the way, is the last Offspring album to date to accomplish this.
Dexter's voice has never sounded so much better than on many of the tracks on this album. This could possibly be because he has evolved as a vocalist until now. although this album is the last time he would record his raw voice. His range is phenomenally wide, while not over powering the voice as in latter albums. Gone Away
is a prime example, as being the stand alone ballad of a loss of a loved one. Very nice to the ears as he gently raises the tempo from verse, to the bridge, to the chorus and to the outro. The instrumentals are simplistic, a good example on how the album works, from Welty's simple, yet highly recognizable opening drum sequence, to Noodle's ability to create fulfilling guitar fills. Of course this wont be the formula to abide by, but it's a good example. Amazed
is another great example on Dexter’s ever changing voice tempo's on here. This track is different from others, Dexter low toned his vocals to fit the mood as the band plays more of a straight forward rock track, rather than punk.
The lyrics take an ironic twist as the band has more freedom to express a side of them that is barely shown in previous efforts, now being departed from punk guru Thom Wilson, whom were their producer since their self titled debut. Yes, the lyrics to a few of their lighter songs at a glimpse can seem immature, but a good study will show a meaning, usually hidden in one line that sums up the song. Cool To Hate
lays the premise of a teenage student that just plain out hates everyone and everything. A fast paced song that leaves no room for an intro. Noodles carries a well organized riff and Ron Welty unique rhythms makes the song feel at a frantic pace. The lyrics seems it's going nowhere, as nothing more than a rant, but it sums up during the line "I'm only happy when I'm in my misery." Way Down The Line
takes an ironic look at the karma rule, what comes around goes around. The chorus is based on back up vocals. Mota
is also quite unique, as it tells a tale on marijuana and the events that pursue. Even the pursuit of purchasing a bag and getting duped with a bag of oregano. Again the chorus sums up a message on the subject.
But losing out just never felt so right.
Your enemies you and so is your life (your life).
But losing out might feel okay all night.
The musicianship is more diverse as the band introduces a newer pop quality to the music. Which is common for a band that signs to a major label. For that reason alone, many Smash
fans were immediately turned off, labeling them sellouts. To me, this adds more depth to the sound, as heard in such tracks like I Choose
. Very bouncy track, pretty much dancable, and still worthy to mosh to. Quite the fan favorite, and what seemingly fun video to make. Noodles has a knack for writing signature riffs as the elder of the band. He can turn standard power chord riffs fresh which shines on here. One particular noticement is Greg's bass is mixed silently, but isn't completely disappeared. On I Choose
, Greg drags the song along through each verse, making a major stand out. Change The World
picks up where Smash
leaves off, Noodles palm muting high pitched chords and a pretty standard rocking drum piece. Then ends up being one of the most spectacular songs The Offspring ever pulled off. Vocally is astonishing. Well organized through out as a signature bass solo brings into a well known opening riff as apart of the bridge. All I Want
is just a plain and simple punk rock song, clocking in a quick 1:54, being the first single chosen to represent the album. Pretty much a anthemic songs, which are usually a hit or miss, but the band nails it big time. Catchy, yet heart pounding.
As the album starts off with a Disclaimer
by Jello Biafra, takes a break with the Intermission
that can be heard during any Offspring concert and ends with some weird old lady speaking obscenities. It is in my own opinion the definitive Offspring record. Each song brings something special to the table, and never gets dull. Even after repeated listens this still hasn't reached my limit. The songs that would normally be chosen as 'filler' (Way Down The Line
, Me And My Old Lady
) would make standout songs on any other Columbia release by the band. As a follow up, this is what a band should take example from, moving out of the box and creating something they truly want to call theirs. This is my OK Computer, Master Of Puppets, London Calling, Daydream Nation, Reign Of Blood, Slippery When Wet, or whatever floats your boat.
The Sludge's Thumb Up's:
Change The World
The Meaning Of Life
Cool To Hate