Offspring Go Beyond Goofy On Splinter

Band offers kitschy first single, but much of new LP is heavy, dark.

Some of the Offspring's biggest hits have been kitschy — "Come Out and Play," "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)," "Original Prankster" — so, unsurprisingly, their latest single, "Hit That," follows suit. Yet the track is not wholly representative of the band's new album, Splinter, which is musically and lyrically heavier than much of the group's catalog.

Instead of glossing over or making light of serious issues, frontman Dexter Holland has crafted an LP that captures a wide range of human expression: elation, fear, paranoia, hopelessness, anxiety. "I think it's natural to feel down sometimes, just like it's natural to feel up sometimes," Holland said. "Most bands either gravitate toward one or the other. They're either a happy band or they're dark. And I feel like neither one represents me completely as a person, so I really wanted to do both in my music."

Throughout Splinter (see "Offspring Extend Splintered Olive Branch To Guns N' Roses), goof songs like "Da Hui" and "When You're in Prison" are balanced by heavier cuts such as the "The Noose," "Race Against Myself" and "Spare Me the Details," which was inspired by the romantic disillusionment of a friend.

"His girlfriend went to a party by herself and she got really drunk and cheated on her boyfriend," Holland explained. "He heard about it because one of his friends told him, and didn't just tell him but really went into all the vivid details of exactly what had transpired. Finally, he put his hands over his ears and said, 'Please! Spare me the details!' "

If the Offspring sound a little more wired on the record, maybe it's because the band has been under a lot of pressure. Its last album, 2000's Conspiracy of One, received a mixed response from critics and fans, and the group took its time to create a solid, diverse follow-up disc. Then, once the Offspring were ready to head into the studio to record, drummer Ron Welty left the band.

"We had been the same four guys in the band for 16 years and over that time everybody grows up and changes," Holland said. "We started out as guys in a van who were happy to be there for a six-pack and a floor to sleep on, and those were great times, but as time goes on, there's families and kids and everything, and we all grew apart a little bit. It wasn't just him, it was everybody. And there was a point where it didn't make sense, just the four of us together, so we just kind of amicably decided to go our separate ways."

A Perfect Circle drummer Josh Freese filled in for the recording of Splinter. Freese got to know Holland when his band the Vandals was signed by Holland's label, Nitro Records. "We had the songs written, we needed to get the record recorded and Josh was in town, so I asked him and he said, 'Sure.' He's so good, he did all the drums in just a couple days, and he made it sound like the Offspring, not a Perfect Circle or anything else he does."

The Offspring tried out a batch of drummers before hiring Adam "Atom" Willard, who used to play in Rocket From the Crypt, as a permanent replacement for Welty. Suddenly life for Willard, who was used to long periods of inactivity, became completely hectic.

"He's a really solid drummer and a great guy," Holland said. "We just called him up and said, 'Hey, congratulations, man. You're in. We'll see you on Thursday for photos.' Then we started rehearsing right away. He barely had time to celebrate."