Were Bad, Were Worldwide

The Offsprings weird, weird realm

Noodles and Dexter both bust up, and then Dexter gets serious. "There's a certain point at which becoming the Nazis of the Internet just doesn't feel right," he says.

Talk finally turns to the new album, Conspiracy of One.

"Oh, yeah, the album," Dexter says, somewhat snidely.

"It only took you 20 minutes into the interview," Noodles says to me, kinda joking around but kinda not, too.

Okay, well, maybe if I'd known I had only a half-hour of their time, we could've cut to the point. But interviewing the Offspring isn't like interviewing the Killingtons or Lo-Fi Champion or Square or any number of swell, local, non-corporate-affiliated bands. The Offspring are mega enough now to have handlers, you see: people who are paid to keep them on a tight schedule. Especially now. Their 1998 album Americana was their biggest-selling one globally—as much as Smash broke the band in this country, Americana broke the Offspring all around the world. Which is why I'm sandwiched between Brazil and Japan—if this interview session were the U.N., I'd be the poor little 70,000-circulation Third World country everyone pities.

Conspiracy of One sounds like . . . well, like an Offspring album, a by-now-familiar mix of sing-along hooks and whiplash beats, a punk-tinged rock & roll record that clocks in at a vinyl-friendly 38 minutes. It's good—like Americana was good, like Ixnay on the Hombre was good, and like Smash and Ignition and their self-titled 1989 debut were good. Nothing radically different, to be sure: the Offspring found a successful formula long ago, and by God, they're sticking to it. Hate 'em or love 'em, at least they're dependable, and their inevitable Greatest Hits disc will surely be tremendous. Still, a band that produces formulaic music is coasting. I've yet to find someone who doesn't think that "Original Prankster," with its vato loco "You can do it!" shout-out and borrowed "Low Rider" riff, isn't a near-carbon-copy of "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)," which wasn't too far removed from "Come Out and Play." Some of Dexter's lyrics on Conspiracy are rewrites of tales he's told before, too: "Want You Bad" and "Denial Revisited" are about the same sucker with no self-esteem we first heard from six years ago, only in "Want You Bad," the guy relishes the abuse he gets from his girl, complete with whips and chains. On "Denial," the dude becomes a loser who just can't let go when his woman leaves him. "If you go, I won't believe that it's forever," Dexter croons a bit too earnestly above his band's sonic swath that (somewhat disturbingly, but we're talking about the lyrics here) approaches the melodramatic power balladry of the late-'80s spandex-metal bands. "I won't let go, even if she says that it's over/I know it'll be different this time, if you just stay." Mmmm . . . yeah. I remember Warrant, too. There are better songs, though—much better ones. The Offspring's greatest gift has always been in their ability to merge the snotty with the serious on their albums, and pierce them both with some incredibly memorable choruses and melodies, so much so that you could really label Dexter a pop songwriter. Ixnay on the Hombre's clear highlight was the single "Gone Away," a paean for friends who've passed on. "The Kids Aren't Alright," a darkness-on-the-edge-of-suburbia narrative squashed up against Noodles' blitzkrieg guitar attack, was Americana's best serious song, bringing balance to such lighter, funnier novelties as "Pretty Fly" and "Why Don't You Get a Job?" Among Conspiracy's standouts are "Living in Chaos," interesting for the hip-hop accents, tape loops and Dexter's rap—pretty fly, for a . . . well, you know. "One Fine Day" wins the album's Best Hook prize. It's basically a British-pub drinking song, a tender, mosh-making ode to hooliganism that's all about chugging down tall-boys, meeting up with friends, going to football games ("We don't even care who wins!"), cracking heads and torching cars—"Drinking, fighting, going to the game/In our world, it's a way to stay sane." Much as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was Kurt Cobain's subversive fuck-you to people who never knew the joke was on them, "One Fine Day" does the same for the Offspring, addressing the band's small-but-loyal dimwitted-dude fan contingent. "We thought that might go over well in different countries," says Dexter, "and the idea of drinking and going to a sports event and causing a riot has always been common in Europe, but it's happening more and more in the U.S., too, with the NBA championships and all that. So it seemed pretty universal." And then there's "Special Delivery," a stalker anthem on the level of "Bad Habit," only a little more premeditated, a lot more obsessive, and without the road rage. It's one of those funny, nervous tunes Dexter has a way with: "Hey, now, do you see me down the way?/Been watching you every day/In my car on the street is where I stay/I know you better that way/One day, I'll be meeting you for real/You'll feel bad, like I feel/And I'll blow you away." This is something that demands more of an explanation—like, was there any personal experience involved with this tune? Has anyone ever become obsessed with Dexter? You'd think he'd be worried, a world-famous rock-star celeb who lives in a regular, normal house on a regular, normal, non-gated-community street in Huntington Beach. But he isn't really too concerned, though he does get regular visits from fans—almost every other day, lately, people knock on his door just to say hi. "Most of our kids have been nice. They really have," Dexter says. "Now I'm really getting jealous," jokes Noodles. "Last time, you said it was a couple times a week. They come to my house maybe once a month. What's up with me? What's my problem?" "Everybody knows where I live," Dexter continues. "Police come to my house and go, 'Ooooh, you're the guy. Yeah, we know about you.' It's really interesting how word gets around. When realtors have people come into the neighborhood, I think they say stuff to people who are thinking about buying houses. There are even people who kind of drive by the house really slow." "I do get that," Noodles says. "You can't always tell. You think that maybe this guy's just driving five miles an hour down the street because he wants to . . ." "Gawking out his window at your house?" "But then, yeah, you can sometimes tell when they're staring, sitting out there. I wanted to have a fucking regular house and live on a normal street. So I guess that's part of the price you have to pay. But like I said, our kids have been pretty nice. It might be different for a guy like Marilyn Manson or something . . ." "Did you hear about this guy who wanted to kill 'N Sync the other day?" asks Noodles. "Yeah! His mom turned him in. He had this folder that said OPERATION: EXECUTE or something . . ." "No way!" "He was gonna blow up 'N Sync . . ." "That is awesome!" "Most of the stalkers we've heard about are from girls we know," Noodles says. "They've had guys who'd stalk 'em. That was kind of the point of the song, that it's unfortunately reflecting a prevalent phenomenon of American society. Not just celebrity stalking, either, but ordinary people." Even ordinary OC rock bands? "Yeah," Dexter says. "There was a lady in Belgium who—well, she wasn't really stalking us, but she was kind of obsessed, sending us things in the mail every day." "Didn't she send two dozen roses one time backstage?" queries Noodles. "Ten dozen roses!" "Ten dozen roses backstage!" "Somebody counted 'em up, and, yeah, there were more than 100 roses. And she never came around, and it was getting kind of creepy. We didn't know who this girl was, and our tour manager went to go find her. She put her address on the envelope, and it turned out she was this grandmother. It was a really weird thing—very unusual." "So we have a slight problem with grandmothers." Publicists, handlers, TV shows, fawning Japanese press, quickie European jaunts, random door-knockers, freaky Belgian grammies—all for an Orange County band. Yeah. It is weird being in the Offspring.
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