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You know when you listen to a Greatest Hits album from a band that’s been around for a while, and you can pinpoint the changes in style, direction and maturity as you listen? “Let The Bad Times Roll”, the newest effort from Cali-based rock veterans “The Offspring”, feels a little bit like a Greatest Hits album in that regard. It’s easy to listen to each song individually and pinpoint a very specific era of song-writing from them; everything from the fast-paced beginnings of their self-titled right through to “Days Go By”, their last release before this. It’s been a long gap in between that and this (nine years!) – but it doesn’t feel like at any point that such a long time-lapse has done many favours for “Let The Bad Times Roll” and this is where the Greatest Hits metaphor breaks down – it’s not their best work, even if it sounds a little like it sometimes.
Now, that’s not to say there’s nothing worth visiting here. I’ve no doubt why “This Is Not Utopia” got to be the opener because I haven’t stopped singing the chorus to myself since the album came out. “Hassan Chop” is the “Da Hui” of the collection; a punchy, punky romp that almost feels like it’s over a little too quickly. But by far and away the pick of the litter is “We Don’t Have Sex Anymore” – the most “The Offspring” that “The Offspring” get on the whole record. It’s a funny, catchy take on the always funny and catchy topic of the spark going out of a long-term relationship and there’s one line I just love, “If you won’t love me will you hate me, if you won’t violate me will you at least just aggravate me” which smacks of that late ’90s, early 2000’s period of songs that I do miss more than just a little.
There are a few non-starters here. “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” sounds like something you’d hear on the end of a song as a sort of secret track – not as a listed effort. It’ll get the crowds going when crowds come back (oh, happy days!), but at the length it is, it barely even qualifies as filler. The title track is harmless enough, but the political tinge to the lyrics isn’t well handled. I could say the same about a few of the lyrical choices on the album, political or not, but I’ll save that reservation for my biggest gripe, “Coming For You”. It’s hooky enough, in that radio-rock sort of way, but the lyrics are an absolute mess. When it actually means anything it’s just hammered out phrases that sound sort of cool if you’re not listening. If you’ll indulge the technical snob in me for a few sentences, I have to talk about "Army of One" as well – it sounds like they attached one mic to a shared wall, then all the band members had at it from separate rooms. There are guitars drowning each other out and vocals that are either a struggle to hear, or sound like lead vocalist Dexter Holland is 100 feet tall and booming them out over a small village; how this mix made it to release is a mystery.
The correction on Dexter’s voice also deserves a mention. The guy has been kicking ass and taking names for 30 years with such a distinct sound, it’s natural that his voice naturally can’t maintain that consistency. I’m not bashing him personally at all. But the correction is patchy and inconsistent and very, very noticeable at times. The lead track is clearly where his voice is most natural; but the re-recording of Gone Away sounds like it was sung by the ghost of Weird Al Yankovic (who at the time of writing is almost definitely not dead, for any future readers who think I’ve cursed him) and is way too far in the other direction.
To sum up - this is “The Offspring” reminding us they still exist with an album that doesn’t do too much more than put a small, inoffensive sign over their heads pointing it out. There are a few bits of genuine quality here, but the complete product is far too inconsistent, musically and technically. If you liked every single Offspring album, you’ll like this. If you only liked one particular Offspring album, there’s going to be one song on here you like. Not a huge fan of The Offspring? This isn’t going to change your mind.
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