REVIEW: THE OFFSPRING – “Let The Bad Times Roll”
If we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, we might as well dance on the way there. A sardonic sentiment that captures not only a great deal of what the world is feeling at this tumultuous time but also the spirit of the upcoming new album from The Offspring, ‘Let the Bad Times Roll,’ set to drop on April 16th. The first full studio album from the veteran rockers in nine years, it couldn’t have come at a better moment. Offering resonant personal commentary on the societal and political contributors that shaped the last year, with a tongue-in-cheek edge that reigns it in from going over the deep end, ‘Let the Bad Times Roll’ exceeds expectations. Even if it hits a couple of bumps along the way.
Returning to their signature blend of jovial pop-punk with a cheeky twist, the album kicks off without foreplay. “This Is Not Utopia,” a rhythmically palpitating opener led by power chords and gang chants, denounces modern-day America from being the Promised Land it monikers itself to be. It might seem a curious move from a band that doesn’t consider itself political, but it sets the tone perfectly for what follows. The title track and lead single, “Let the Bad Times Roll” is a near-perfect return to form. Its aggressive, guitar stabbing verses coupled with its poppy, acoustic-based chorus, and weighty lyrical undertones make it a perfect fit for the playlist to Satan’s spin class. And yet, the lazy fade-out that tags on to the end of the song is unforgivable, rendering its built-up momentum impotent. Just as you wouldn’t forgive an author who finished chapters of their book by making the words less and less visible until there was no definitive end, for an album nearly a decade in the making, lazy fade-outs are simply indolent.
One of the most enjoyable things about ‘Let the Bad Times Roll’ is every member is clearly heard, feels completely present, and sounds wholly invested. Even on the reimagined Offspring milestone” Gone Away”, stripped back to a piano and vocal rendition with hints of strings that is as beautiful as it is haunting. A result in no small part due to another return from legendary producer, Bob Rock (Metallica, Motley Crue), who clearly knows what fans want to hear on a great Offspring record. Traits such as the dynamic duo of vocalist Dexter Holland and guitarist Noodles being a sonic force throughout. Especially evident on more moving numbers such as “Behind Your Walls,” which sees Holland cater to the verse with a seldom heard, lower register to his vocal delivery. Again with “Coming for You”, which is brought to life by drummer Pete Padara and newcomer Todd Morse on bass. Morse makes a great impression on this record, particularly on what is sure to become an instant Offspring classic, the satirically, and joyously depressing, “We Don’t Have Sex Anymore”. Led by a bass line that sounds like a nod to The Cure’s “Lovecats”, everything about this piece, from the horn section to the playful piano and painful, yet hilarious storytelling delivered by Holland, catapults this tale of sexless woe into the stratosphere. The album’s standout track, it achieves its own kind of happy ending, even if no one else does.
Despite what it might initially allude to, ‘Let the Bad Times Roll’ is not the overtly political statement it might suggest itself be. The narrative is one of reflections, not criticisms, observations as opposed to opinions, while musically the energy, thankfully, is as dynamic as ever. With ‘Let the Bad Times Roll’, The Offspring provide a refreshing soundtrack to your own personal apocalypse. Sugar-coating nothing with a satisfyingly merry acknowledgment that everything currently sucks, this is the perfect album to crank the volume on when you’re content just to watch the world burn for a day.