Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review #47: The Offspring - The Offspring (1989)


Year: 1989
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres: Hardcore
Label: Nemesis Records
Tracks: 11
Length: 32 Minutes (Medium-Length)
Style: Political/Violent
My Rating: 7/8

One night, two teenage punks from Orange County, California named Keith Holland and Greg K. were going to go see a Social Distortion concert. However, when they got there, there was a problem -- they weren't allowed in because they were under 18! When they got home, the two decided to start their own band called "Manic Subsidal". Of course, this band later was renamed "the Offspring" in 1985. Now, a few years passed, and by 1988, they recorded a demo, released a single, and had a full lineup. In 1989, they were signed to Nemesis Records and went to the studio to record their first LP! While it wasn't initially that successful, it was still a classic in its own right. The Offspring are now more known for their alternative-influenced brand of pop-punk, but just over 20 years ago, they played fast n' furious hardcore. With that said, a lot of more mainstream Offspring fans might (and some have) be offended by this album, because at this point their lyrics were more dark and gruesome; fuck, earlier prints of this record had a song called "Kill the President". Of course, they just HAD to re-release the album with a "cleaner" album cover and by 2002 "Kill the President" was taken off (why would you take that song off while BUSH was in office?). I dunno if that qualifies as selling out. Maybe there's a more personal reason for it all. But still, this documents an LP's worth of their early sound, and the songs won't be too catchy for everyone, but fans of "Ignition" or even "Smash" should enjoy it somehow. On to the songs.

1. Jennifer Lost the War
Starts with a soft beat, and then gets harder after the beginning. Pretty cool lead-guitar work in this one. The song compares life to a battlefield, in which ordinary people "are all just soldiers", as young children are killed and raped, yet we don't take matters into our own hands to go after the people who do these things. I think that's what it's about.

2. Elders
Faster than the previous song. It's a song about when we're young, we're told that we'll grow up into a specific mold of a "grownup", when in reality most people grow up with few opportunities for the future, and we see that they weren't as great as they made themselves to seem. The song tells authority to "just be straight with us" about the future. Vocal harmonies used in the chorus section.

3. Out On Patrol
Hands-down favorite song on the album. Starts with quiet, beautiful acoustic guitar that EXPLODES into a roar of pounding drums and fiery distortion. In between the lines during the verses, there's this cool little swift set of notes that are played. Sounds so cool. That part makes me think of the little alien bursting outta the guy's body on the cover. The song is pretty much some sort of anti-war tune, telling the tale of a solider who dies in a war from a mine, and realizes that nothing can save him now. The "It's Your Life" line that's repeated at the end is punctuated by a group chorus of "ohh-ohh-ohh". Some weird foreign phrase yelled at the end.

4. Crossroads
This one starts with a very lead-driven lengthy intro. After the first verse there's a solo. Not sure what this one's about. The tempo in this one is similar to "Jennifer Lost the War".

5. Demons
Very swift, rolling drum intro. Metal-ish rhythm guitars, here. The song is about a ritual of summoning a group of demons. A person wearing Egyptian attire is sacrificed in a blood-ritual. Two-thirds through the song, the tempo slows down during the bridge, before speeding up again.

6. Beheaded
Another horror-themed song. A song about an insane kid who axes-murders his entire family by chopping off their heads, splashes the blood all over his body and collects the heads in a burlap sack, adorning his room with them on bamboo poles. There's another slow bridge-section in this one.

7. Tehran
Another anti-war song. It's a criticism of the Iran-Contra and Middle-Eastern wars that were taking place during the 1980s under Ronald Reagan and George H.-W. Bush. Asks the question of whether or not this is all worth the amount of people that would be killed for it all. A great song that's still relevant to today's politicals (more than it was back then!).

8. A Thousand Days
Not my favorite one on the album, but it's still alright. Very poetic lyrics that I can't quite decipher in the time that the song plays for.

9. Blackball
An earlier version of this song was released on a 1986 single along with "I'll Be Waiting". This version is definitely more polished, with more accentuated drums and soforth. Really compelling lyrics about "black-balling", an organization practice in which certain people are excluded by chance for receiving a "black ball" rather than a "white ball"; basically a process that unfairly excludes people just 'cause. I love the chorus riff.

10. I'll Be Waiting
Also originally on the 1986 7" single (albeit, in a different version). Starts with a slow percussion section with a lead-solo. The thumping bass drums can be heard, and then it's more thrash-style music. Basically about feeling alienated and fatigued by a society that feels like it's filled with fake, boring people with "nothing to say". The song's protagonist looks to a day "when he feels alive". Kinda how I feel a lot.

11. Kill the President
It makes me so mad that they took this song off recent printings of the album! Well, if it wasn't the Offspring, maybe it was the actual president -- pig! The song starts with some funky drums which turn into fast beats. The song pretty much gets to the point -- a world with leaders would have fewer wars, less oppression, and that "the world that they're saving will always be theirs", meaning that corrupt politicians usually act on THEIR best interests rather than their nation's. Good song with a good point. Barack Obama isn't immune to this eternal chant, either.

Well, that's "the Offspring". Two of the songs, "Blackball" and "I'll Be Waiting" were from an older 7" single, and "Tehran" was later on the Baghdad EP as "Baghdad". It's a pretty solid listen. Fast, intense hardcore, but it's more melodic than early hardcore. And I'm not huge on that most of the time, but it works in this case. The production values are pretty low, which I actually like. Good old days of analog recording. The album mostly tackles social issues, but there's a few more off-the-wall songs as well. Some songs about personal issues, too. If you don't find this album "accessible" enough as an Offspring fan, start with "Smash" or "Ignition" and then try listening to it. 'Cause it's really good.

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