It's been nearly 25 years since the Offspring first kicked sand in the face of pop music. Some folks called the Southern California kids punks; others said they weren't hard enough. But no one disputed the fact that what the band brought to the mosh pit bloodied many a nose.
Most folks remember the Offspring's Smash, the 1994 album that produced the hits "Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)" and "Self-Esteem." Those two singles helped make Smash the biggest-selling independent LP of all time. But personally, I've always believed that "Gone Away" was the best the Offspring ever offered. And yes, that's going to ruffle a few feathers, especially when you consider that the song came off '97's Ixnay on the Hombre, the Offspring's first album after ditching its previous label, the hallowed punk bastion Epitaph.
Seriously, reconsider "Gone Away." First, the track is a standout because it tacks away from the way the SoCal pop-punks were expected to play. It's got none of the tongue-in-cheek snark or sophomoric high jinks that made them so popular — just pure unadulterated candor. And that's an infinitely more courageous thing to reveal. Second, the song's guitars roar like wild winds coming over a mythical mountain, and the drums roil as if the center of the Earth were about to burst forth through the sky. These are the elements that make rock such a formidable force of nature, and here the Offspring wield them like hammers held by gods. And third, you can hear Dexter Holland's hurt in each and every word. From lyrics like "Maybe in another life" to "Heaven's so cold," there's a pain here that's explicit and real.
Still, though, that was hardly the peak of the Offspring's career. Even more fans came on board in 1998 for Americana. That record produced a trilogy of soon-to-be neo-punk pop classics, "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)," "The Kids Aren't Alright," and "Why Don't You Get a Job?"
And if the Offspring's core crowd didn't quite get "Hit That," off 2003's Splinter, they sure as hell swarmed all over last year's Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. Maybe that's because producer Bob Rock brought the band back to its roots with "Hammerhead" and "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid." Or perhaps it's just that "Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?" made radio worth listening to again. Whatever it was, it was damned good.
On Saturday night at Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, the Offspring ends its first headlining tour in five years. It's called the "Shit Is Fucked Up Tour." And while things around the world are pretty much fucked up, the Offspring is dead set on proving it's anything but. New Times got with lead guitarist Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman from the road to find out the hows and whys of the Offspring's revival.
New Times: When was the last time you guys were on the road?
Wasserman: Well, we did a bunch of stuff last fall, right after the release of Rage, a bunch of festivals. But the last time we've really been out was the Warped Tour back in '05. We've done a few headlining shows here and there. But it's been awhile since we've headlined a U.S. tour on our own.
And when you hit South Florida, that's your last show on this tour right?
Yeah, it is.
Since it is the last U.S. date, what can the fans expect?
Well, we're always feeling a little loose the night before, kind of like the last day of school. And we tend to get a little crazier onstage. I mean, it's not as if we're worrying about any upcoming shows or anything. We get to go home the next day. We'll have about two-and-a-half weeks off before we go to Europe, and it should be a pretty fun show. We'll make sure the songs are there and that we play well. But we're probably gonna goof around a little more than we usually do.
OK, you've called this the "Shit Is Fucked Up Tour," and you've been out on the road for six weeks — have you noticed things getting any better, or are they getting worse?
I don't know. Things still seem pretty fucked up. The coverage up until Michael Jackson died was all about Iran and it falling apart. So Iran doesn't seem to be getting any better, the economy is still shit, we're still involved in two wars, and all that stuff gets pushed to the back when somebody like Michael Jackson dies. It's so important in all of our lives to know what's going on with Michael Jackson.
I don't think people realize that you guys have a socially aware streak. Do you see that ever coming out more, perhaps in the next record?
We're always gonna have some of that in our songs, but really what we write about is the personal struggle with how we feel about what's going on in the world. We don't ask political questions, we don't try to tell anybody how to think or what to believe, we don't try to point out stuff that's right, at least not in our songs. Usually it's just expressing an emotion about things we see in the world that are fucked up.
I realize it's been almost a year since Rage, but what was it like working with producer Bob Rock?
It was great, great. I can't say enough good things about Bob. Just a super-cool guy. He pushed us but did it in a way that was really helpful. If he said something wasn't working, we'd take a look at it and usually come up with something better here and there. We took up a lot of his time, and he never wavered. He was into it for the whole ride.
Metallica, the Cult, Aerosmith, 311 – the guy's got an incredible history. Will you be working with him on the next record as well?
We're hoping to, yeah. If we can get our schedules worked out in any way possible, yeah, we'd love to work with him again.
It's still too early to get a title or a time frame, right?
A little. We're planning on having a new record out in 2010. And we'll probably be in the studio in January.
This is probably really a question for Dexter, but before we go, I've gotta ask: What's with all the "whoa"s?
I don't know; it adds a little dynamic to the song. I never really thought of it. If the song calls for it, we'll throw it in. But not every song has a "whoa." We don't always think about how a song's gonna go over with the audience; you know, it's usually a little more organic. But I'm so glad we have those "whoa"s because whenever we play live, that's what the audience gravitates towards. And anywhere in the world. It doesn't matter if you're in the U.S., Japan, or South America.
I didn't think of that. They transcend the language barrier. Kind of like rock 'n' roll itself, right?