But they have master’s degrees!
My rebuttal to those who questioned why I liked the music of The Offspring curators of brash punk pop rock, featuring sometimes interesting subject matter and a singer who yelled the lyrics with little vocal charisma. You won’t get smarter by listening, but The Offspring did produce some pretty fun jingles.
The Offspring hit it big with their smash album Smash in 1994 with songs that continue to get regular rotation on radio today. But prior to this third album of theirs, unless you knew somebody who knew somebody who told you about The Offspring, you probably had never heard of them.
Yes, singer Dexter Holland has a master’s in molecular biology and original drummer James Lilja left in 1987 to pursue medical school. And! before The Offspring hit the charts they already had two records in the can the first being their self-titled debut released in 1989. Holland and bass guitarist Greg Kriesel, aka Greg K., started the band as Manic Subsidal in 1984 and in 1986 changed their name to The Offspring. Kevin Wasserman, aka Noodles, joined as guitarist and Lilja pounded the sticks.
After Smash took off, The Offspring managed regular follow-ups including a number of well-received albums featuring sometimes quirky and out-of-the-box tunes despite an overall sameness from one release to the next. Though nine years have passed since their last, Days Gone By, The Offspring haven’t exactly fallen off the music radar but expect a stronger blip next month upon the release of Let The Bad Times Roll their 10th studio album – their first since since 2012 and first without Kriesel. The band split ways with Kriesel in 2018 and he has since filed a lawsuit. Todd Morse, a long time touring musician with The Offspring replaced Kriesel. After Lilja left, the band went through two more drummers and today have Pete Parada onboard since 2007.
The Offspring First Album Review
Gritty and raw, The Offspring album falls right in with early 80s Orange County punk, and why not. Hailing from Garden Grove, CA they had producer Thom Wilson who worked with Social Distortion, The Vandals and the Adolescents, among other pioneers of the day. Seeing as The Offspring technically formed in 1984, arguably at the height of the Southern California punk scene, perhaps these guys missed the punker boat but all good things come to those who wait.
All this to say, The Offspring’s debut album seriously stands up alongside the early pioneers of the genre.
Quick paced, the 10-song album lasts just under 30 minutes with six songs finishing less than three minutes in true punk rock style. The Offspring, as in both band and album, fully embraces punk rock for this self-titled debut with just a slight hint of their future alternative rock punk pop sound. A keen ear should hear some familiar harmonies that remind of those earlier punk tunes that defined the era. Indeed, “Beheaded” could be a D.I song.
All the songs on The Offspring’s self-titled debut album pretty much feature the same classic punk rock structure but with enough individual melody to stand apart from one another. Thus, if your history with The Offspring started 30 years ago you’ll find the difference in sound on their debut album almost palpable from what you enjoyed just a few short years later.
“Jennifer Lost the War” opens the record with an edgy guitar clang then along with the methodical pounding of drums and accompanying bass, Holland’s organic vocals begin before the band hits the usual punk pace with rapid cymbals taps and ranting guitar solos. This technique hardly lets up through the final track. But at the same time…
The Offspring integrates a few different approaches to songs giving the album some depth and preventing any accusations of them mailing in the bulk of the album. “Out on Patrol” attempts a soft opening using acoustic guitar, but as if to say, “enough of that” Noodles enters with hard hitting chords and the slam pit resumes. Strong drum work highlights “Blackball,” the longest track that mixes in a few tempo changes and a brief melodic departure that works well at the halfway point. “Crossroads” gets off to a different start by popping Greg. K’s bass up more before the recurrent hurried pace begins. Album closer “I’ll Be Waiting” has an almost 70s rock vibe before diving off the stage into the crowd then abruptly halts halfway in with Greg K. leading a bass charge for half a minute before the frantic pace restarts.
Fun Fact: The original release of The Offspring had two additional songs dropped from later re-releases. “Hey Joe” only available on the original cassette and “Kill the President” famously, or not so famously, destroyed by local Orange County talk show host Wally George, father of actress Rebecca De Mornay, who entertained many, including me, who grew up in that era and stayed up late on Saturday.
Holland carries the same vocal tone but doesn’t exactly sing, instead yelling through songs, much like he does today – often sounding like he needs to take a breath and relax similar to a nervous conference speaker – but with a bit more finesse on future albums than on this debut. On “Demons (A Mexican Fiesta)” he sounds a measure or two behind on vocals earnestly trying to keep up until the band leisurely drops an unexpected and melodic slow down almost as if to allow their singer to catch up before picking up the pace again.
The songs on The Offspring’s first album pass by quick thanks to the rapid pace allowing you to burn a fun 30 minutes in what feels like half the time.
Debut Album Grade: B+
Overall Grade: B+
The Offspring Self-titled Debut Album Track List:
- Jennifer Lost the War
- Out on Patrol
- Demons (A Mexican Fiesta)
- A Thousand Days
- I’ll Be Waiting