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Despite residing in the sunny confines of Huntington Beach, Dexter Holland still manages to see the gray in the world. It's a notion that has come to define his band, the Offspring, and the career they've made, mixing fist-clenching angst with palatable pop punk.
Their ninth studio album, Days Go By, is the latest chapter in this balancing act, with a track list that puts the unbridled punk fury of "The Future Is Now" in the same neighborhood as the overwhelmingly glossy club jam "Cruising California (Bumping In My Trunk)." Due in stores on Tuesday, the band haven't given up their edge while still keeping their crown in the pop-punk strata.
Lyrically, the album comes across as one of the Offspring's most personal, with touches of the frustration of the daily grind. "It is very easy to get dire in these times," Holland explains. "There are a lot of songs that are kind of angry, such as 'Secrets From the Underground.' The pure expression of anger or frustration can be cathartic. The idea of getting it out can make you feel better."
At a point when plenty of successful bands might go on autopilot, Holland isn't shy about his enthusiasm for their ninth effort. "I feel like we have this secret we want to share with everyone. We want to take [Days Go By] all over the world." On Aug. 18, the band will showcase the new material as a headlining act for the Sunset Strip Music Festival (alongside Bad Religion, Marilyn Manson and Black Label Society).
When it came time to make the album sound punchy in the right places, the band decided to reunite with famed music producer Bob Rock, who pushed their experimentation with different instruments and sounds that sometimes sounded a bit out-of-character (i.e., synthesizer blips, robotic vocoder and Holland's half-sung hip-hop flows on "Cruising California"). While the rerecorded version of "Dirty Magic" will be familiar to older fans, the song manages to blend in well within the overall context of the album. Dexter explains that the song—plucked from the Offspring's 1992 sophomore release, Ignition—was "originally recorded in three hours" and that they wanted to "spend a couple days on it, to try to play it better and make it sound better with Bob."
The Offspring still proudly wave their OC flag when filming the video for "Cruising California (Bumping In My Trunk)." "The song is an idea of taking a lighthearted look at driving down Pacific Coast Highway in my hometown and the fun-in-the-sun side of it," Holland says. "But there is a darker side to it and strangeness. All the things your readers know about in Orange County—the good and the bad."
Armed with a Masters in molecular biology from USC, Holland was asked if he could be any element on the periodic table, which one would he be and why. "Plutonium 'cause we're the bomb?" he responds. Although some might've guessed he would choose nitrogen for his record label, Nitro Records, his answer meshes well with the last song on the new album, "Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell," which sidesteps OC stereotypes in favor of sharing a less-than-sunny outlook on the world today.
"The world is going to hell," he says, "and sometimes you have the attitude of 'Let's take a drink and watch it burn.'"
This article appeared in print as "Plutonium Punks: The Offspring's new album blows up the line between mosh-pit fury and dance-floor jams."