The Offspring have been put through the wringer during the past decade. Musicians have come and gone, leaving Dexter Holland as the sole original in their line up, while sessions for ‘Let The Bad Times Roll’ have had more false starts than a particularly muddy Grand National.
Yet fans still cluster around the band, whose pop-edged take on punk captured a global audience in the 90s, one they have stubbornly kept by their side. Indeed, it’s not unfair to say that Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ and The Offspring’s ‘Smash’ practically defined adolescence for several million people.
That being said, it’s not exactly clear who ‘Let The Bad Times Roll’ is aimed at. A record that struggles to find an identity, both the length and the truculence of its gestation are evident in every note. Stretched to 12 songs, the tracklisting still finds room for a goofy, completely non-essential version of bombastic classical fave ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’ and a piano version of ‘Gone Away’ – a single previously released in 1997.
Indeed, there’s not a lot on here that feels genuinely new. ‘Coming For You’ was initially released way back in 2015, and while it’s a perfectly enjoyable pop-punk stramash that date is an indication that all has not been well beneath the group’s easy-going Californian façade.
To concentrate on the highs: title cut ‘Let The Bad Times Roll’ is a leering statement of defiance, while ‘The Opioid Diaries’ is a genuinely daring, journalistic takedown of America’s damaging cluster of addictions. Lyrically barbed and deeply honest, its cut and thrust recalls late 90s fan favourite ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’.
Too often, however, The Offspring lose any kind of focus. ‘We Never Have Sex Anymore’ is dire - a limp, dis-satisfied throb that loses your interest almost immediately. ‘Behind Your Walls’ is overwrought and under-written, while closer ‘Lullaby’ is drowsy, lethargic, and lazy.
A record some 10 years in the making, ‘Let The Bad Times Roll’ has a fraught background. It’s difficult, though, to assess it on any other merit than the finished product, which feels curiously unfocussed, and lacking in purpose.
Words: Robin Murray
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