The Offspring – Smash (1994): Review

offspring

Produced by Thom Wilson
Label – Epitaph

Before U.K. and European audiences dismiss their introduction to The Offspring via their best forgotten, throwaway, idiotic dabble with the singles chart with “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)” and “Why Don’t You Get A Job?”, this West Coast four piece had been a legitimate power packed pop/punk band, that rivalled the likes of Green Day, NOFX, Rancid and Fugazi. “Smash”, their third long player can never be overlooked for its typically explosive urgency, good tunes and intense teen driven anger and petulance. Signed to independent label Epitaph, the record reached number four in the Billboard album charts, eventually attaining platinum sales status. Whilst their first two collections leaned towards hardcore punk, “Smash” contains elements of punk, heavy metal, grunge and ska, and would influence popular bands from the late decade, such as Blink 182, Sum 41 and Simple Plan. Opener “Nitro (Youth Energy)”, sets the tone with the “Wipeout” styled drum roll, followed by singer Dexter Holland’s energetic anthem to the bravado of youth, supported by the band’s revved up instrumental response. His controversial narration of the original “road rager” for “Bad Habit” carries all the vocal hysteria one would expect from a glove box gun toting mad man. “Gotta Get Away”, which musically borrows heavily from Nirvana was an odd choice for a single, in view of the fact that the band were steering the fans towards a genre which frankly, they were desperately trying to break away from. “Genocide’s” bitter frustration for American ignorance to its own decay and destruction is interesting in that 25 years on, there’s more than a thread of poignant irony for the state of the nation. Having said that, Holland’s idealism feels hollow, resigned and hypocritical based on the fact that two songs previously he’d wanted to shoot someone for cutting him off on the highway.

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The two best remembered songs are the stop/start classic “Come Out And Play”, and the unfortunate story of an abusive relationship in “Self Esteem”. The oft used Phrygian scale guitar riff and the spoken word “you gotta keep ’em separated” keeps the song bouncing along with a fresh vitality that’s hard to resist. On “Self Esteem” the seemingly masochistic lines resulting from a violent affair are justified by the victim by the illogical suggestion that “The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care”. Holland has confirmed that the song is not auto-biographical, but is loosely based on the experiences of a friend. The cover of The Didjits “Killboy Powerhead” is loyal to the original, and the spiky ska of “What Happened To You” is choppy, clumsy and should have been left for No Doubt to explore. Overall though, the positives outweigh any reservations over style, and it seems sad that the band became the comedic, novelty act of later in the decade, because the collection has some genuine, pogoing delights.

“Smash” reveals that The Offspring could have been highly revered punk contenders, however their later career steered them directly to Palookaville. Shame really.

7/10

1 – Time To Relax (na)
2 – Nitro (Youth Energy) (8)
3 – Bad Habit (7)
4 – Gotta Get Away (7)
5 – Genocide (6)
6 – Something To Believe In (6)
7 – Come Out And Play (9)
8 – Self Esteem (7)
9 – It’ll Be A Long Time (6)
10 – Killboy Powerhead (7)
11 – What Happened To You? (5)
12 – So Alone (6)
13 – Not The One (7)
14 – Smash (6)

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6 responses to “The Offspring – Smash (1994): Review

  1. I’d give the spoken intro a 10/10!
    I might rank the singles slightly higher than you but I think that’s mostly due to the nostalgia association for me (this was huge when I was in middle school).

    • The Offspring never hit it big in the U.K. until later in the decade, so this record was new to me. I’m amazed it sold so many copies! For an independent label to sell as many copies as this did is pretty impressive.

  2. This was a big one for my brother, though it never did click for me. I still remember his reaction to Pretty Fly… I think he was a bit crestfallen given how much he was looking forward to a new Offspring album.

  3. Yeah. I don’t know what happened. You gotta keep their early, rocking stuff separated from their later, self-plagiarizing and cartoonish work.

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