Find out our thoughts on the latest release from The Offspring…
It’s been a long nine years since the last Offspring album was released to a very mixed reception. In hindsight, the most positive of those reviews look truly ridiculous; even hardcore Offspring fans would be hard pressed to call Days Go By a good album. That’s not to say it was outright bad though, it was more a case of absolute mediocrity. It had some standout moments, such as album closer Slim Pickens, but most of the album’s runtime was spent rehashing old ideas in uninteresting ways and generally just treading water towards utterly forgettable results.
Then, aside from a few song releases including the excellent Coming for You, there was a whole lot of nothing for 9 years. Frontman Dexter Holland and lead guitarist Noodles would frequently state in interviews over that period that they were working on the new album, at various intervals even saying it was nearly finished. At one point, Noodles even stated they had enough material to release 2 records! Now, here we finally are. 9 years of crafting an apparent wealth of material for the follow up to their weakest album, we must surely be left with the absolute cream of the crop from their endeavours on Let the Bad Times Roll.
Well, speaking as an Offspring fan, if this is the best they’ve been able to put together over the last 9 years then that’s a little bit heart-breaking.
Let’s just start by saying that the jury will really be out on whether this is better than Days Go By. In the immediacy of its release, there will likely be many who say yes. Give it a few years and the likelihood is that the slightly harder edge of these new songs will fade into the same forgettable obscurity of the deeper cuts on the previous album. There’s nothing new here, this is another Offspring-by-numbers album, only with a touch more of the middle-aged cringe factor. Credit where it’s due, it’s clear the Offspring know they’re being cringey at times and are leaning fully into it. Acknowledging it, however, doesn’t make it good.
That all said though, Let the Bad Times Roll does start better than Days Go By, but ends worse than any Offspring album ever has. The back half of this album is an incredible demonstration on how to nosedive in quality. In fact, there’s even a whiff of unfinishedness to the latter half, with ideas that feel very rushed in a way that really shouldn’t be the case for an album that had been 9 years in the making.
Now to tackle the most egregious problem with this album. There are 12 tracks on this new album. 12 new tracks. Well, actually no. That’s not the case. You see, one of those tracks is the aforementioned Coming for You, which was released initially 6 years ago and, bar a minor lyric change, remains exactly the same. Another of those tracks is an outro lullaby rendition of the album’s title track, which serves no real purpose. Oh, and another of those tracks is a cover of Edvard Greig’s 1875 orchestral classic In the Hall of the Mountain King, which is fine at best I suppose? Again, it serves no real purpose, it’s the sort of thing that would probably even be turned down as a potential B-side but here it is taking up space.
So you see, it’s actually nine new songs on this album, with a six year old song, a classical cover and an outro also included. Effectively one new song a year then. Oh, but wait. The penultimate track of the album is another cover actually. A piano cover of one of the Offspring’s best songs, Gone Away (here known as Gone Away Requiem). Look, it’s never gonna detract from the original but again, this really should have been a B-side or even its own single release rather than effectively the album’s last track. It’s lazy. Not only that, while the cover itself is pretty good with strings swaying and swooning behind it all, Dexter Holland’s vocals are either autotuned or effected so much that the emotion behind the lyrics feels disingenuous and superficial. It really lets the whole thing down. You have to compare it to the original, unfortunately, and no matter how you look at it, it’s just a lacklustre version of something that was basically already perfect. Make that eight new songs then. Whatever happened to enough material for 2 new albums?
But look, it’s not all bad. If all you want is an Offspring album you can stick on for a bit of fun background noise, the first half of this album totally has you covered. It’s not as good as anything from their 1994-2008 heyday, but the typical Offspring formula is there with the Punk-y goodness you’re probably expecting. In fact, songs like Behind Your Walls, Army of One and the title track are sure to satiate that Offspring craving if and when you have it. If the whole album had been of the same calibre, there’d likely be very few complaints considering how far into their career the band now are. You’ll probably even find enjoyment in tracks like The Opioid Diaries and Hassan Chop from the album’s back half too. Fair enough, they’re perfectly fine, if a little forgettable and unfortunately placed within the track listing.
Here’s the thing, if you’re a diehard Offspring fan, you’ll probably fall into one of two camps. You’ll either accept this album as it is – you may even think it’s great. Or, like myself, you may feel a little bit disappointed. And that’s ok too, 9 years later, to have hoped for something more substantial. There are enjoyable moments on this album, no doubt. I’m just not sure there are essential moments on this album.
If I do have one extremely positive thing to say about Let the Bad Times Roll, it’s this: while I’m not in much of a hurry to listen to it again and again, it’s completely reinvigorated my love for the Offspring, and I’m glad that they’ve returned. On top of that, I can’t wait to see them live and, heck, I even think a couple of these songs could slot into the setlist quite comfortably. Are the Offspring a band who needs to play new songs though? Not really at this point. Always nice to have something new to look forward to though, isn’t it?