The Offspring

Americana

Written by: PP on 23/07/2009 03:26:32

Another night at work equals another chance to waste some time on an old album review. This one's extra special though because if it wasn't for this record and songs like "Have You Ever" and "Staring At The Sun", this magazine probably wouldn't exist. In fact, I know for certain it wouldn't exist, as I'd still go around wearing my ultra-baggy pants listening to DMX, Busta Rhymes, Cypress Hill and a bunch of other hip hop artists instead. If you haven't figured out yet just what album we're reviewing here based on those titles, then either you're too young to remember, or you simply shouldn't be reading this website. Rant over. But in all seriousness, The Offspring's "Americana" is the stepping stone album for an entire generation of people who today listen to rock music. 15 million copies sold world wide speaks it's own story, though I'm surprised it hasn't sold thrice that amount. Damn you Napster.

As I return back to my teenage days with the cut-n-paste ten second intro "welcome to americana...", the temperature of the room drops about ten degrees judging by the back chills that follow Dexter's repeated opening howls "Faaaallliiing" on "Have You Ever". The song is essentially poppy punk without being pop punk; the focus is on relentless speed and d-beat drums, but at the same time every lyric in the song is perfect for a stadium-sized sing along fest. Then comes "Staring At The Sun" where Dexter's characteristic shout really comes into its own, proving to be yet another display of The Offspring at their very best: ultra melodic despite the three chord riffs that act as the building blocks for the majority of the song, extremely punk with in-your-face aggression levels brought by Dexter's shout and the breakneck pace, but at the same time, distinctly mainstream. Looking back at the release almost 11 years later, Green Day might have been the first band to bring punk to mainstream, but "Americana" is what REALLY exploded the scene into the MTV world. Sure, much of that can be attributed to the groovy and silly "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)", but hey, how many of us can honestly claim not having sung "Give it to me baby" at some point in our lives?

"The Kids Aren't Alright", another single that helped The Offspring shift the 15 million copies, is where Dexter Holland's cynical lyricism is at it's very best: "Jamie had a chance she really did, instead she dropped out and had a couple of kids, Mark still lives at home cause he's got no job, he just plays guitar and smokes a lot of pot, Jay committed suicide, Brandon OD'd and died, what the hell is going on, cruelest dream, reality". The Offspring might be a joke today, but back then these lyrics touched so many lives for a reason. Throw in the fantastically placed whoa's at the end of each line and you've got one hell of a track. Too bad it's followed by "Feelings", which is still good, but let's face it, it's one of the weakest on the record despite also containing prolonged shouts and whoa-oh's during the chorus.

One of the reasons why "Americana" works so well is because it's tracks are so varied. On one end you've got fast-paced melodic punk rockers full of gang shouts like the Pennywise-sounding "Walla Walla", but to balance the equation you've also got tracks like "She's Got Issues" and "Why Don't You Get A Job?", which are essentially pop rock (or I'm tempted to call them ballads). Since both styles approach are songwriting at its most genius, you can't but call "Americana" a perfect album. I challenge you, find me one bad track on this record. "The End Of The Line" may not be high-profile, but you can be god damn sure it'll get me dancing if they'll ever play it at The Rock. Some may call "Smash" the best Offspring album because it has some of the best songs this band has written such as "Bad Habit" and "Genocide", not to even mention "Self-Esteem", but that album has a few weaker tracks towards the end. As a contrast, "No Brakes" is exactly what it says, full throttle skatepunk with no concern for people not accustomed to that type of stuff, the title track's foreboding intro explodes into a ridiculously catchy "well fuck you" chorus complete with enough woo-hoos to kill your voice, and the traditional Indian-styled "Pay The Man" finishes the album off with style. Alright, it might not be as good as the title track from "Smash", but there's just no way around the notion that this is a perfect album at every front, and in 2009 sounds every bit (and maybe even more) as good as it did 11 years ago. That's how you know you're dealing with a timeless classic.

10

Download: No Brakes, Have You Ever, Staring At The Sun... ok, every track
For the fans of: Bad Religion, Pennywise
Listen: Myspace

Release date 17.11.1998
Columbia Records

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