[CD Review] The Offspring, 'Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace' (Columbia)

The Sound of One Band Drifting. Or just not trying very hard, which, in 1994, was actually a pretty great thing—16 million copies of Smash can't be wrong. For out of all the Orange County bands that made it mega in the '90s, the Offspring's success was the least calculated—sonically, there really wasn't much difference between Smash and their first two albums, The Offspring and Ignition.

Which gets us to Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, their first album since their '03 dud Splinter, on which the band tried to cover up their idea bankruptcy by plopping on a lame song about prison sex—just when you thought the kids were all grown up, they go and crap their diapers. There's at least nothing as jokey on Rise and Fall, and nothing that smacks of eye-rolling novelty such as "Pretty Fly" (for a White Guy)" and "Why Don't You Get a Job."

But then there's also nothing here that touches the band's well-thought-out socially conscious tunes such as "Come Out and Play" or "The Kids Aren't Alright." The closest we get is the dated "Hammerhead," ostensibly about nutjob kids who shoot their classmates (spoiler alert: the band's against it), but grunge bands were doing these same songs a lot better back when the Offspring were getting turned down from playing UC Irvine student festivals.

Even worse, there's a treacly ballad here, "Fix You," on which Dexter Holland cops the exact same annoying whine of a thousand emo singers, not helped by the high-school Pee-Chee poetry of such lyrics as "She sees a million stars like holes in the sky/All God's tears for her they cry/And I am in her rain." Deep, dude—and what is Richard Marx up to these days?

Seems like the band wanted to sculpt something meaningful here à la American Idiot, but the thoughts came out all jumbled, so they tossed the detritus into a single ditty, "Shit Is Fucked Up" (retitled here as "Stuff Is Messed Up" to appease Wal-Mart shoppers), on which Holland yammers and spits about everything from global warming to mass consumerism to boob jobs and apathy like a kid who's just discovered KPFK. Well, at least Holland's Gringo Bandito hot sauce has some kick.


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