The Offspring were always the least convincing punk-rockers among those that broke around the mid-Nineties. Dexter & Co. looked rather lost in their punk gear, as if they’d rather wear their record company bosses’ business suits to work. Their albums hardly had much to do with punk either, and the uproar over the band’s eventual “selling out” seemed a bit odd considering the fact that their music was always directed at the charts, even way before they hit the big time in 1994 with the appropriately titled Smash.
The band’s main problem is the fact that while their music is directed towards the single-buying public, that demographic isn’t actually buying the albums that The Offspring are pushing. Which is why Splinter is another album destined for semi-failure, at least from a commercial point of view. The Offspring remain too rock for the pop crowd and far too hit-oriented for the rock audience. The best they can hope for, it seems, is a single so big that people will naturally gravitate towards their record in the hopes that it will contain more gems. It’s worked in the past, but over their last couple of records, people seem to have caught on to their evil scheme.
It’s a shame, really, because I for one caught myself enjoying this little affair. A guilty pleasure for sure, except now it’s out in the open. Sure, there are the embarrassing moments you’ve come to expect from these guys: the reggae-pop track “The Worst Hangover Ever” comes complete with The Offspring’s trademark attempt at being funny, although god knows there are few unfunnier guys than these around. The couple of wannabe punk-rock tracks fail miserably too, but thankfully those are few and far between. And the three first songs crawl frighteningly close to sub-hair metal rock, in the grand tradition of Twisted Sister and their ilk. So, that’s half the record.
However, there are some fine pop-punk singles here: “Hit That,” the album’s lead single, is good in the same way that “Self Esteem” was good. “Spare Me The Details,” meanwhile, rips from the unlikely source of Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha,” and drags that song into acoustic campfire punk-pop land. Weird, but good, in an unpretentious, fun-filled way. “When You’re in Prison” is the strangest of the lot, a whiff of 1930s cabaret music, complete with splintered (ah!) 78-record scratches – not so shocking if it hadn’t been for the fact that it’s actually pretty good, sounding less like a piss-take than a sweet homage to their grandparents’ record collections.
The Offspring remain a pretty unimportant band in the annals of rock history, and Splinter’s most definitely not going to change any of that. But, barring a few horrendously misplaced tracks, this is a fun enough half-hour of punk-pop from a band that knows its limitations all too well, and makes no attempt to challenge either themselves or their fanbase.