With Ixnay On The Hombre, the Offspring answer the question, how
does a punk-pop band follow-up a small punk-pop album called Smash
that unexpectedly sold about nine million copies?
If you're the Offspring, you pretty much do the same thing you did the
last time: you hire a great producer (Dave Jerden), and you record another
batch of punk-pop songs. No sweat.
The first thing I wanted to know before I'd heard this album was whether
it contained songs as good as "Come Out and Play" and "Self-Esteem," the
smashes off Smash that sent the group into the stratosphere. So
let's get that out of the way first. Yes. "All I Want," the first single,
is not only the best song on the album, but one of the best straight ahead
rock 'n' roll songs likely to be released this year.
Consider the pure street poetry of this opening verse:
"Day after day your home life's a wreck
The powers that be just
Breathe down your neck
You get no respect
You get no relief
You gotta speak up
And yell out your piece"
Now set those lyrics to the buzz saw roar of twin guitars and deliver them
with the rough, everyman voice of Dexter Holland and we're talking a
perfect blast of noise that will irrigate everyone its meant to while
making you feel like you rule the world f or the one minute, fifty-three
seconds it cranks from the stereo. (Dig the bored "Ya, ya, ya, ya" vocal!)
Oh yeah, the rebel yell chorus goes like this:
"So back off your rules
Back off your jive
Cause I'm sick of not living
To stay alive
I'm not asking a lot
I just don't want to be controlled
That's all I want
All I want."
Proof positive that behind the SoCal punk pose are songsmiths with a keen
ear for the elements that make for a real hit (meaning, a song that, once
you hear it, you MUST hear again).
The album hits that peak at least two more times. The first is "Gone
Away," which begins with an awesome chiming guitar. "And it feels like
heaven is so far away," sings Holland. "...the world is so cold now that
you've gone away."
The second is "Amazed," which kick-starts with an incredible guitar riff
that sounds like the guys have been listening to old Cult tracks like "She
Sells Sanctuary" and "Love Removal Machine." In fact, the guitars
throughout the album deliver raw, distor ted rhythms and wiry melodies
that stun on contact. On this particular number, the heavy guitar work
gets so exciting it makes me want to start leaping around the room.
Content-wise, the song seems to be about a very depressed guy who is so
down he's thinking about ending it all. "Yeah if I make it I'd be amazed
just to see tomorrow," sings Holland.
Other songs don't always fair so well. "Me & My Old Lady," may express a
nice sentiment--Holland singing about how much he and his girl dig each
other, like to have sex all the time, etc., etc.--but it comes off kinda
lame. I'd much rather hear him singing about some authority figure
fucking him over, if truth be told.
The intro by onetime Dead Kennedy's leader Jello Biafra ("Disclaimer")
that opens the album is amusing the first time you hear it; by, oh, the
second you're ready to move to track #2. Same is true for "Intermission,"
48 seconds of lounge sounds that may be the real punk move here. Already,
after listening to this album six or seven times, its driving me crazy.
Otherwise, the Offspring deliver solid, dependable punk-pop like "The
Meaning of Life," which follows "Disclaimer" with a huge roar, "Cool To
Hate," which makes fun of everyone who takes that sentiment at face value,
and the finale, "Change the World," (a dig at a former business associate)
in which Holland sings, "You don't wanna change the world like you say/ In
it for yourself, no one else."
While that lyric may be aimed at one individual, we've all run into
righteous hypocrites who talk loud, say nothing and act in their own
self-interest. It's exactly the kind of song that the Offspring should be
I wish Ixnay For The Hombre were a classic five star punk album
like The Clash or The Ramones. At the moment though, it
doesn't sound like one. But don't get me wrong. I'll be listening to "All
I want," "Amazed," "Gone Away" and "Change the World" for a long time to
come. And you probably will too.