By The Offspring
The Offspring are one of those rare bands who can get away with putting out the same record time and time again. Right from the start, The Offspring's eighth offering 'Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace' sounds exactly like The Offspring have always sounded, and, in their case, it's true what they say: if it ain't broke, then don't fix it.
Album-opener 'Half-Truism' is a galloping punk rock party with a stadium-sized chorus that demands you sing along. As ever, The Offspring court the teenage market with angsty, 'The Kids Aren't Alright'-style lyrics, which just might see them win over a whole new generation of alienated youth.
'Trust You' is a roaring, whiplash track that kicks off at one hundred miles an hour, and doesn't let up until the final note. Chugging guitars, speeding drums and frantic backing vocals adding an echo to Dexter's already-hurtling main vocals, all ensure this song goes for the listener's throat before they have a chance to dislike it. It isn't a particularly original punk song but, when everything's played at double the speed, it's impossible not to get dragged along for the ride.
Second single 'You're Gonna Go Far, Kid' is guaranteed to give you twitchy dancing feet. The chorus in particular is faultless; blending bitter sentiments with a sneering sense of humour, pogo-ing drumbeats and nervy guitar. It's no wonder The Offspring gave this a single release. 'You're Gonne Go Far, Kid' has The Offspring's next anthem-in-waiting written all over it.
But, not far beyond in the anthem stakes is 'Nothing Town.' Bouncing along on spring-heeled drumbeats, 'Nothing Town' is foot-stamping punk rock at its best, and will surely be cluttering up setlists for years to come.
'Hammerhead' has more of a stylish, oldschool punk sound than much of this album, turning out some especially classy-sounding riffs towards the end, and uncharacteristically slick vocals. 'Hammerhead' is built on a jerky, stop-start riff that pounds the listener's ears, rather than sweeps them off on a punk-rock jaunt. Consequently, 'Hammerhead' is sorely lacking the giddy fun that made 'You're Gonna Go Far, Kid' and 'Nothing Town' so great.
'A Lot Like Me' is The Offspring's stab at the epic, angsty rock anthem (think Linkin Park's 'What I've Done.') The chorus is as massive as you'd expect, jam-packed with arcing, dramatic riffs that wouldn't sound out of place on a film soundtrack. Dexter further boosts drama levels by contributing some desperate-sounding vocals, punctuated by urgent high notes. It's a combination that'll fill your head with cinematic images.
'A Lot Like Me' is begging for a single release, if only so The Offspring can spoil us with a fittingly overblown music video.
After the straight-faced epic-ness of 'A Lot Like Me,' we get 'Takes Me Nowhere' which is one of the most enjoyable songs on the album. The chorus is infused with an oldschool rock and roll swagger, and the main and backing vocals bounce off one another in dumb-but-fun fashion. This is one chorus you'll be singing along with, halfway through the very first listen.
'Let's Hear It For Rock Bottom' takes a leaf out of 'Takes Me Nowhere's book with a sing along chorus where The Offspring's usual angsty lyrics are delivered over more of those swaggering, rock and roll riffs. Disillusionment never sounded so much fun.
The verses have a vague feel of treading water until that chorus kicks in, but when the chorus is this good, that hardly seems to matter.
'Rise and Fall, Rage And Grace' also features two ballads. The first, 'Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?' begins as a stripped-down acoustic number with an emphasis placed firmly on the lyrics. This makes it glaringly apparent that the lyrics are guilty of a few clunky, too-obvious rhymes, and Dexter's vocal rhythms do get a bit monotonous, but this is balanced out by 'Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?'s pleasant, sing along vibe. A handful of twinkly synths, coupled with the laidback acoustic strains, make for a nicely undemanding first half.
The Offspring then crack out the electric guitars to give the closing half some bite, and bring the song to a lighters-in-the-air finale.
'Fix You' is this album's second slow song. Although it follows closely in 'Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?'s footsteps with a second half blow-out, the opening half is much more low-key, and has perhaps the more heartfelt lyrics of the two.
'Stuff Is Messed Up' captures The Offspring in a more experimental mood. A finger-clickingly cool, but relatively hook-free, underlying beat, shunting riffs and shouty vocals, means that this isn't as immediate and fun as the rest of the album. The lyrics occasionally feel a little awkward, although a bridge section where Dexter rattles out apparently random words at breakneck speed, then gasps audibly, does bring some much-needed humour to proceedings.
'Stuff Is Messed Up' grows on you following a few listens, but it's one of 'Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace's weaker offerings.
'Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace' closes in the same manner it started; with a helter-skelter, punk fun-fest, in the form of one-hundred-miles-an-hour album-closer 'Rise And Fall.' Immediate, fast and fun, but with biting, socially-aware lyrics, 'Rise And Fall is quintessential The Offspring, and ends their eighth album on a high.
If you've ever listened to an Offspring album, then you already have a good idea of what 'Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace' sounds like but, for once, that's no bad thing. 'You're Gonna Go Far, Kid' and 'Nothing Town' are right up there with the best songs The Offspring have ever written, proving that, with eight albums under their belt, not to mention a Greatest Hits collection, there's mileage in the old Offspring formula yet.