By Matt Albers
There are bands that tend to stick around far past their relevant welcome in pop culture. When those bands exhibit, at any point in their career, a sound that could be described as “punk,” it elicits mixed responses. The Offspring is an example of how big and successful a band with punk elements and influences can get, but at the same time water down the feel of their music and appeal to be more accessible to a wider audience, bringing them closer to the “pop” genre. This happens with many bands with roots in any genre, especially in the various rock genres. But part of what has made The Offspring so successful is not just because their catchy and melodic songs grab the attention of many hungry consumers in the pop genre, but also the elements that rock and punk fans gravitate toward as well. However, with any band that finds themselves as a “fad” band for any amount of time, when those 15 minutes of fame wear off, they either never reach that point again, or “sell out” and try to regain that status. The Offspring’s latest release Days Go By is, unfortunately, the latter.
Before diving into Days Go By, it’s important to remember that The Offspring formed all the way back in 1984, and had already released eight albums before their latest. Their success peaked with the release of their 1998 album Americana, which included hits such as “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy),” “Why Don’t You Get A Job?” “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” and “She’s Got Issues.” Their following two albums, 2000’s Conspiracy Of One and 2003’s Splinter, also included songs that attempted to reach the same pop status as those on their previous album, such as “Want You Bad,” “Hit That,” and “Original Prankster” featuring rapper Redman. But these two albums did not hit the same popularity as Americana, indicating that The Offspring’s star was fading from pop status. It would be another five whole years after the release of Splinter when The Offspring would release Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace in 2008, and from the first listen it was clear that The Offspring were trying to redefine their sound on this album.
While about half of the songs exhibited a sense of familiarity to what fans had come to recognize and expect from The Offspring on all their previous albums, the other half of the songs appeared as obvious attempts to create radio singles. Songs like “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” and “Half-Truism” were the most “pop-punk” sounding songs The Offspring had released to date, and “A Lot Like Me,” “Fix You,” and the downright abominable “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?” were sappy love ballads that sounded like they were written by another band. With Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace, it really seemed as though The Offspring were trying to go the same route as Green Day in 2004 with American Idiot; i.e. sounding even poppy-er or more “emo” as that sound was becoming more and more popular. Fortunately, the other half of Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace were songs that were much more reminiscent of classic Offspring. That all being said, if Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace left a slight bad taste in your mouth, it would stand to reason that Days Go By seemed like receiving a swirly in the excrement-filled toilet of a truck stop bathroom that hadn’t been cleaned in fifteen years.
The album opens with the song “The Future Is Now,” which sounds like it’s trying too hard to be something it’s not. Though very melodic, song sounds like it’s trying to force a message of change and uprising, and everything about it just sounds like it’s a rip off of other popular “punk-esque” acts like Rise Against. In fact, “The Future Is Now” actually sounds more like it was written by Rise Against than The Offspring, and would probably sound more organic if Rise Against actually recorded and released this song. And here we come to the biggest problem with Days Go By as a whole: many of the worst songs on the album sound like they were written by or for other bands or recording artists. Some of the most outstandingly bad songs on the album don’t even sound like Offspring songs, more so even than their previous pop hits at any point in their career.
Two other songs on the album that noticeably sound like they’re written for another band are the title track and “Cruisin’ California (Bumpin’ In My Trunk).” While “Days Go By” sounds just like a Foo Fighters song, it’s “Cruisin’ California (Bumpin’ In My Trunk)” that will undoubtedly leave fans with their jaws on the floor. This is nothing more than a party pop song; it has a generic melody, generic good time lyrics, and worst of all, Dexter Holland attempting to rap and sound hip or “street.” This isn’t as fun to listen to as on “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy),” especially considering he was 14 years younger when Americana was recorded. No, hearing Dexter Holland’s vocals on “Cruisin’ California (Bumpin’ In My Trunk)” is the scariest and most unsettling thing that the man has done since attempting to act in the movie Idle Hands. Although it sounds like a discarded Katy Perry b-side, it’s obvious that “Cruisin’ California (Bumpin’ In My Trunk)” was written for two reasons: 1.) to add a bit of fun and humor to the album that The Offspring is known for (though it fails miserably) and 2.) to be a catchy, active rock/pop radio hit as an attempt to regain popularity and relevance.
There are a handful of other songs on Days Go By that are either bad or just OK at best. “Hurting As One” sounds like parts of other Offspring songs sloppily cut and paste into one new song that ends up being completely forgettable. “Turning Into You” is another generic pop-punk song, and “All I Have Left Is You” is another love ballad that rivals “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?” in sappy uselessness. “OC Guns” is a rather interesting song; it’s sound, structure, and lyrics all indicate that it was inspired by the lifestyles of California Latino gang life. While The Offspring has often incorporated this social aspect of their home state into their work before (such as will the title and album art to 1997’s Ixnay On The Hombre) it’s unclear whether this song is more of a tribute or rather an insult (but in fairness, the same can be said about “Da Hui” from Splinter being about Hawaiian native culture).
Fortunately, the Days Go By isn’t a complete loss and there are a few songs that Offspring fans should enjoy, especially after multiple listens when the good songs will undoubtedly stand out from the bad ones. “Secrets From The Underground” doesn’t sound too particularly special upon the first listen, but repeatedly it becomes clear that it is very strongly punk influenced. “I Wanna Secret Family (With You)” fulfills the required one funny Offspring song for this album; the lyrics tell the story of a man stuck in a rut with his marriage and kids, and escapes to strip clubs where he longs to have an affair with his favorite dancer. The last two songs on the album, “Dividing By Zero” and “Slim Pickens Does The Right Thing And Rides The Bomb To Hell” sound like classic Offspring songs, and since they close out the album, they leave fans of older material from the band wanting more and wishing the album contained more songs like them. “Dirty Magic” is another good song on Days Go By, but totally does not count since it is a re-recording of a song from their 1992 album Ignition.
After listening to the album, it becomes abundantly clear why the band went with Days Go By as the title of this album; The Offspring, though perhaps proud of the legacy they’ve accomplished, are now burnt out and barely hanging on to their punk rock persona. The good songs on Days Go By are nowhere near enough to redeem the lack of care that they now have for making music. The majority of the songs on the album are either thrown together and going through the motions, or obvious attempts to sell records and regain the popularity they once had in the 1990s. Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace would have been a good stopping point for The Offpsring, because at least on that album, they actually TRIED; yes, they tried not only to sell out with poppy-er, more emo-sounding songs, but they also tried to make a couple of good Offspring songs too. Unlike this album however, which shows barely any integrity to their own artistic vision or originality at all. But, it’s hard to blame a band that’s been together for almost thirty years for making an album like Days Go By; it’s actually rather impressive that the band has stayed together this long and kept any fan base at all.
But perhaps the most tragic fact about Days Go By is that, due to the generic, catchy structure of most of the songs, even the worst ones, they become catchy and can easily get stuck in your head; yes, even “Cruisin’ California (Bumpin’ In My Trunk).” This especially happens after repeated listens, trying to find something redeemable about the album. So, listener beware…
Final Score: 1.75 out of 5 (D+/C-)
Recommended If You Like: Rise Against, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Bad Religion, Billy Talent