Ok, one word all Offspring fans will have in mind is: finally. Yes, finally. I can’t be more exited. The last album we got by The Offspring was the 2012 release ‘Days Go By‘. Then in 2015, we got the single ‘Coming For You‘. After that one, it went silent. Here and there there would turn up a video of The Offspring playing a possibly new song. And lead singer Dexter Holland and lead guitarist Noodles, would speculate in interviews on working on a new album. But they were never able to give any specific information like an album name or release date.
Now, we finally have the new release ‘Let the Bad Times Roll’. But why did they wait so long? Well, I think there were simply just a lot of things going on if I can state it like that. There’s Dexter getting his PHD in microbiology. Yes, the singer of this band is a doctor now. There’s the fact that their contract with their previous label Columbia Records ended. So they did have an album, but no label to release it on. There’s COVID-19 of course, that pushed the release date. And then there’s the story about bass player Greg K. Or rather former bass player Greg K.
The Offspring never said much about the topic, only that Greg K would have a different opinion about the direction of the music. I remember being at their show at the Lokerse Feesten in Belgium in 2019. NOFX was playing the slot before them and I remember lead singer Fat Mike saying: yeah, later The Offspring will get on stage with their new bass player. And I thought: wait what? Greg K has been there from the very beginning. But yeah, people change and friendships do too, so maybe there isn’t a lot more to share about this topic.
The current line-up consists, form left to right, of bass player (former live rhythm guitar player) Todd Morse, lead singer Dexter Holland, drummer Pete Parada and lead guitarist Noodles.
Let’s talk about the expected sound of this release. The Offspring said multiple things about this album. They’ve talked about the fact that it could maybe be two albums. One tougher, more punk album and one softer, more acoustic album. We know that the in 2015 released track ‘Coming For You‘ is a classic Offspring song with a drum lick quite similar to ‘Stuff is Messed Up’ from their Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace album. Something else that jumps out is the song ‘Gone Away’. The Offspring has already a song named ‘Gone Away‘ on their Ixnay on the Hombre album. The rumor goes that this is the piano version of it. I remember seeing The Offspring for the first time in 2009, which was one of the first times we got to hear this version. I remember recording a bit of it on my flip phone, a memory quite valuable to me. Dexter and Noodles did a live Q&A on YouTube where they confirmed that this was indeed the piano version of ‘Gone Away’, recorded for the first time. I can’t wait to hear how it sounds recorded. For me, this version just has a special place in my heart.
Then the day finally is there… Nine years of long waiting, and man, what a solid album this is. Let’s not waste anymore time and start digging into it. ‘Let the Bad Times Roll’ starts off with ‘This is Not Utopia’. A classic Offspring song with clear lyrics that get stuck in your head right away. Fast, short strums on the guitar with Dexter’s iconic voice on top. Since the ‘Days Go By’ album, they seem to have a different way of recording vocals. It has a futuristic touch to it. Maybe it’s best describable as a kind of echo that’s added to his voice. This song does it at certain points in the song. This, I like much better compared to the previous album where they used this technique a lot, to the point where it didn’t sound natural anymore. Noodles said that ‘This is Not Utopia’ is his favorite song. A song about all the trouble we see in the world right now and all the injustice in the world in general.
Next we get title track ‘Let the Bad Times Roll’. A different, catchy rock song with classic sounding rock verses. I like where this is going. Dexter said that this song has a similar viewpoint as ‘This is Not Utopia’. He said:
‘’When we have problems, we are supposed to solve them. A lot of people say ‘Bring it on’ instead of ‘Let’s solve this’. That’s where the title came from’’.
‘’If you can’t change the things, you might as well dance to it’’.
Remember the song ‘Come Out and Play’ from their 1994 album ‘Smash’? There is this part where a guy named Blackball does the line “You gotta keep em separated”. Well, The Offspring got the same guy back to sing the “Fuck it, fuck it” line in ‘Come Out and Play’. He also appears in the video for a split second when doing that line.
“Tell me how do I reach you when all I see is a stare. Tell me how does it look form behind the walls of pain”. Some powerful lyrics in the third song on this album ‘Behind Your Walls’. It’s about trying to reach somebody who’s in the depths of despair, depression or a mental illness, Dexter stated. It’s a dynamic rock song that screams power both from the lyrics as from the music.
On to ‘Army of One’, my personal favorite of this album. The song has this surfer riff vibe through it. A fast verse and a very harmonic chorus that just screams for the repeat button. The solo goes back to this surfer vibe element which just makes this song one solid block of pure action. ‘Breaking These Bones’ is again a more straightforward rock song. With a simple but cool drumbeat and chords being strummed slowly on the guitar in the beginning, to faster strumming in the chorus and a nice guitar solo near the end.
‘Coming For You’, the single that kept us waiting for this album for about 6 years, is right in the middle of this album. I don’t know if that’s intentional, probably not, but it is also track 6 on the album. We know the video with the clowns and stuff. Typical Offspring. They talk about serious subjects, but they’re also not afraid to laugh about it and be sarcastic. I love that about them. They did re-record the song for the album. The only changes though, are some lyrics that are different. (The video below still has the original lyrics from when this song was released in 2015.)
‘We Never Have Sex Anymore’ is the song that probably surprised me the most of this album. It’s, well, it’s jazzy. Something I didn’t expect to hear but something I absolutely love hearing. It’s rock with jazz influences and The Offspring managed to mix them seamlessly. The solo is even done by a saxophone, followed by a guitar following the same notes as the saxophone. Genius. Noodles says that this song is about when the passion has gone out of a relationship. Quite literally what the song title says. “You either work it out or you move on and suffer in silence” he adds.
When The Offspring talked about the classical song ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ by Edvard Grieg, I was like wait, what song? Then when I heard it, I instantly recognized the song. It’s hard to describe in words, but you know it once you hear it. They covered a part of the song and made it a punk sounding piece, very fun to play on guitar. ‘The Opioid Diaries’ is where ‘It Won’t Get Better’ went. Those beautiful harmonies in the chorus are back as well, combined with classic punk rock Offspring. This song reminds me again of their Ixnay On The Hombre style, but they added some extra layers to their music. It just sounds more full, the whole album does. It’s classical Offspring style, but those 9 years really took them to the next level.
During the Q&A, Dexter and Noodles said that ‘Hassan Chop’ resembled the sound of their first, self-titled record. When I heard that, it really grabbed my attention since the first record was the most punk record they made. They haven’t gone back to that style ever since, so I was pretty curious to hear the song. Starting off with the song title being screamed, I must say, they did it. For this song they went back to their roots. It’s fast, it’s punk, it’s their old style on their newest album and they just killed it.
‘Gone Away’, or rather the piano version of the song, is absolutely stunning. For me, it has gone full circle. From my crappy recording of it in 2009, to the crystal clear studio version of it in 2021. This song brings me to tears. Tears of happiness of all the memories I have with the music from The Offspring. But also tears of sadness because of the meaning of this song that sings about a loved one that has passed away. When they play this song live, Dexter either plays it fully on piano by himself, or the band joins in on electric guitar, drums and bass. On the recorded version, they added some violins to it. It gives the song that extra dimension again. Dexter said that he started to play ‘Gone Away’ on the piano to mix up their live set a little. He didn’t expect that the song would do so well. Since a lot of people liked to hear a studio version of it, well, here it is on the album.
‘Lullaby’ is the perfect ending to this album. It plays parts of ‘Let the Bad Times Roll’ slowly. I think Dexter explained it the best way:
‘’It’s kind of a revision of ‘Let the Bad Times Roll‘. A trippy, slowed down version, like when a vinyl is winding out at the very end. Like an art piece’’.
And that is exactly what I think of this album. It’s a piece of art, a beautiful pearl in the discography of The Offspring. An album that hasn’t disappointed me one bit. This album is the style off The Offspring we know, but with an extra dimension and influences that are surprising, but very fitting. The Offspring’s style in general is, to put it simply, punk rock. Some songs are more punk, others more rock. But in general they find themselves in a combination of the two.
On this album, they created an extra dimension by adding what sounds like extra layers to especially the vocals. They changed it up by going back to their roots, but even adding some jazz and classical influences to the party. I don’t think I ever wrote a review this long. Then again, I also don’t think I ever waited 9 years for an album. The waiting was rewarded. Hopefully we get to hear this live soon. The Offspring always has very energetic live shows, but they do have the tendency to play a lot of their greatest hits and leave their other songs in the dark. It would be amazing to hear some other songs live too, because The Offspring proved with this album that they are far from done.
Release date: April 16, 2021.
Label: Concord Records
- This is Not Utopia
- Let the Bad Times Roll
- Behind Your Walls
- Army of One
- Breaking These Bones
- Coming For You
- We Never Have Sex Anymore
- In the Hall of the Mountain King
- The Opioid Diaries
- Hassan Chop
- Gone Away