The Offspring ‘Let The Bad Times Roll’ review: punk that lacks a punch

Rating:

How many times in the last five years have you heard someone say that life just sucks? You’ll run out of fingers and toes to count them on. Of course, given we’ve lived through Brexit, Trump, the opening salvos of the climate crisis and now the Covid-19 pandemic, people aren’t exactly making up problems to complain about. The Offspring gets it – but they’re saying the same things that many other bands have said before, in an album that’s the punk equivalent of homework handed in after the deadline.

Opener ‘This Is Not Utopia’ isn’t the barnstorming introduction to the SoCal four-piece’s tenth album that we might have wanted, and lyrically it’s obvious, but its meat-and-two-veg punk sensibilities are listenable and catchy enough if you can grit your teeth through its slightly grating hook. Similarly, the following title track is musically inoffensive to a fault, even sounding rather anaemic in its chorus, but its lyricism is its real weakness. On the one hand, it constantly misses its own point, trying to say something while at the same time saying little of substance, but the references to the 2016 presidential election, including chants of “lock her up”, feel out of date in a post-Trump world. It is telling that the album was recorded over a period of several years yet was hampered by constant delays, and it’s a wonder that track is still on there when it sounds like it should have been released four years ago.

There are better moments to come than what these tracks promise: ‘Breaking These Bones’ is angsty fun, ‘The Opioid Diaries’ is earnest and far more relevant, and ‘Hassan Chop’ offers thrilling, hypercaffeinated punk gone wild. However, there are worse moments to come as well, the kind that will likely arouse laughter for the wrong reasons.

There’s a remarkable amount of filler here

To be frank, at times, this album is bizarre. Lead single ‘Coming For You’ features some rather strange, even nonsensical couplets – “Breakdown, takedown, now it’s on/Sold out, blow out, Donkey Kong,” anyone? – but the real peak is ‘We Never Have Sex Anymore’, a blues rock dirge more suited for dad dancing than moshing. Lyrically, it does what it says on the tin, but it does so in cringeworthy style – “We never have sex anymore/We never make love till we’re sore,” moans frontman Dexter Holland – that frequently feels like oversharing.

There’s a remarkable amount of filler here too: their frenzied, metallic cover of Edvard Grieg’s ‘In The Hall of The Mountain King’ (or ‘the Alton Towers music’ if you had a certain kind of childhood in the West Midlands) is good fun but feels a little random and out of place on the record. Closer ‘Lullaby’, a minute of mumbling washed out with watery synths does so little it feels pointless, and a piano led reworking of classic hit ‘Gone Away’, dubbed ‘Gone Away Requiem’, is touching but its purpose on the record is perhaps questionable if not to bulk out the record. At twelve tracks long, it’s an average length album, but even then The Offspring are stretching themselves a little thin.

Let The Bad Times Roll is ultimately a record that doesn’t punch hard enough. Even the diehard fans who have waited patiently for nine years since the release of 2012’s Days Go By might find themselves disappointed by what The Offspring is offering here where there’s no late career equivalent of ‘Self Esteem’ to be found. Unfortunately, whatever it is they’re doing here you might find a better version of somewhere else.

WE RECOMMEND: ‘Hassan Chop’ 

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