Pop punk enthusiasts will undoubtedly make the argument that The Offspring had a vital role in shaping the genre as we know it today and sparking a much needed excitement and mainstream urgency into punk rock in the 80's and 90's alongside the likes of Bad Religion and Green Day. And of course, the argument that they are often overlooked comes as well. Smash and Americana are both vital pop punk albums and yet, they're only really known for good old Pretty Fly (For a White Guy). And I'm not even confident that the lesser musically knowledgeable fools with whom I must reside (Love ya really!) would know who actually performs that song. So, as these albums remain classic works of pop punk, what's questionable now is there power, songwriting talent and overall relevance in this modern day and age when pop punk isn't so hot in the public eye anymore. Nor is a lot of rock music. And when looking at their ninth album Days Go By, it's clear that they've moved in the same direction as Bad Religion and definitely not Green Day and have upped their sound more.
It's only natural that anyone that heard lead single Cruising California (Bumpin' in My Trunk) before stepping into this album as a whole had a right to be cynical of what The Offspring had become, but we'll get to that. For the most part, Days Go By features all the kinds of big choruses and infectious hooks that serve as the essence of pop punk, but there's a spikier edge across the album. The kind of spike that only listening to some of the more genuine names in punk and hardcore could have shaped. Fans of punk's more modern contemporaries have already been taking note of the exact similarities to Rise Against songs. There's actually some truth in this. The Future is Now and Turning Into You feel at times like clones of the Chicago quartet's Savior and Ready to Fall but that doesn't mean they don't have the sound of classic Offspring at the same time, with these songs along with Secrets of the Underground and Dividing By Zero bearing a reminiscence to the material of Smash and Ignition that will appeal to those that know those albums inside out. With infectious hooks and messages of genuine emotion that shows their further influences from the likes of Social Distortion and Fugazi, there's little doubt that the band are only sharpening their punk roots.
However, along these more heartfelt moments of melodic hardcore punk, the more fun and poppier moments come out. While in the past this has resulted in classics like Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) and Original Prankster the offerings here are less tolerable. While musically OC Guns has a nice ska influence and is clearly The Offspring's answer to The Clash's Guns of Brixton, the whole jokey Spanish singing and impression get's a little annoying. And indeed Cruising California is another song in this category. In many ways, it's more enjoyable to hear the song as part of the album rather than on it's own, since it then becomes more aware that it's intended as a parody of all the kinds of repetitive pop songs on MTV, or whatever section of MTV it is that actually shows videos now, that are simply about partying and sex. It's at that point when you realise they're trying to go all out on pop song cliches, with auto-tuned backing vocals, melodic rap vocals and even the return of the "Uh-huh" sound that we've all come to know and love from Pretty Fly (For a White Guy), but it's really not enjoyable for that reason. I think it purely serves as a troll song. Think of it as Days Go By's answer to Splinter's When You're in Prison.
Naturally, the band is still capable of making pop punk belters and the infectious hooks of the more chilled out ballad All I Have Left is You, I Wanna Secret Family (With You) and Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell are wonderful pieces of pop punk with upbeat energy. Along with them, the rerecording of Ignition's Dirty Magic is given a grittier makeover, albeit, the original with it's simplicity and extra roughness is better, really.
Overall, Days Go By is an album that serves as a hit and miss album. When the band do proper punk songs with a genuine effort, it has the sound of some of the strongest material yet that really establishes them as one of the main deliverers of punk. However, there's other moments that suggests there attempts to have fun are falling short of previous releases. But if this is a sign of The Offspring's more genuine punk ethic taking the forefront, this can only be a good thing. The Offspring may be overlooked in the scale of original pop punk bands, but for those who still check them out, you're going to be in for a treat.
The Offspring's Days Go By is out now via Columbia.