Back before Bad Religion spearheaded a mid-’90s second wave of West Coast malcontents, The Offspring were going from demons and guillotines (1989’s The Offspring) to no-strings rendezvous and suicide cases in LA (1992’s Ignition), striking success around 1994’s Smash, branded the best-selling independent album of all time. More recently, however, 2008’s Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace was pseudo-political, critically eviscerated blandness that morphed The Offspring into a band that parents might have once considered hip and rebellious, now left playing “classics” playlists at half-full amphitheaters. To future generations, we are collectively sorry about “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?”.
Fast-forward to today. The Offspring’s newest release, Days Go By, is both disjointed and mildly out of its element, containing one-third of this act’s best output since pre-Splinter by a minuscule margin at best. It’s just good old fashioned “meh.”
Seemingly unrelated to the misleadingly grim album art, each song contributes to a 12-piece ramshackle time machine. If you were anticipating their re-recording of Ignition-era artifact “Dirty Magic” or perhaps pondering a forced Dr. Strangelove reference like the one lodged in “Slim Pickens Does The Right Thing And Rides The Bomb To Hell”, you’re in luck; those tracks are the pinnacle of what Days Go By has to offer. Keen listeners might note a Rise And Fall glaze over openers “The Future Is Now” and “Secrets Of The Underground”. There’s also an Americana/Splinter vibe amidst Latin-tinged “OC Guns”, gimmicky summer tune “Cruising California (Bumpin’ In My Trunk)”, and a stripper love song (and “Hit That” throwback) “I Wanna Secret Family (With You)”. An Offspring apologist might claim this mess of a package was surprising, but anybody who’s heard “When You’re In Prison” or “Da Hui” knows better.
From observing the Offspring’s contemporaries– Green Day, for example– target audiences know that evolution has its pros and cons, the case in point being the difference between Nimrod and American Idiot. Ambitious endeavors combined with audience nostalgia are what brought the previous era’s pop rock back into resurgence in the first place. The Offspring opted to try and have a little bit of fun here, but ultimately, they fail to reach more existential fare, instead pretending that “Turning Into You” is not simply “Dammit, I Changed Again” reprised. Similarly, title track “Days Go By” serves as cookie-cutter inspirational rock circa “Can’t Repeat”, but at least it’s an uplifting placeholder in a record chock full of uninteresting “misery loves company” tidbits.
The Offspring have been in the music business for over 20 years. They’ve recruited a new drummer (again), perhaps an effort to retain some semblance of youth even as the band gets older– guitarist Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman hit 49 in February. The thing about aging is that you can either drain energy in a futile effort to deny the natural order, or you can embrace your own mortality and live like your time is running out. The Offspring are contemplating which side of the park bench they’re on, regardless of actual reality, and no CD or digital stream will make a suitable substitution for a flux capacitor. Everything on Days Go By comes across like a B-side compilation spanning their last ten years in music, without the benefit of anything remotely hit-worthy.
There are modest musical gems to be had in the tragically malnourished final mix. However, slapped smack dab in the center, “Cruising California” boldly goes where “Pretty Fly” hilariously went years ago, instead reconfigured into a non-satirical bass-bumper nobody will ever swallow with a straight face. Such keyboard-laden schlock sums up Days Go By in an undeniably pathetic and predictably disappointing nutshell: the last-ditch grasping of straws by a band whose previous exuberance became self-parody shy of Y2K, unbeknownst to whatever unwitting radio listeners felt “Original Prankster” was wickedly clever.
Getting old isn’t so bad, fellows. It comes with wisdom and true life experience. That is, unless you’re a washed-up punk rocker. Then, it comes with regrettable tattoos, some humorous tales of life on the road, and maybe a stab at a comeback album. Unfortunately for the Offspring, too many Days have gone by, and this record feels like too little, too late.
Essential Tracks: “Slim Pickens Does The Right Thing And Rides The Bomb To Hell”