CD Review of Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace by The Offspring
Recommended if you like
Bad Religion, blink-182, Fuel
Label
Columbia
The Offspring:
Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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I
t’s hard to believe, but the Offspring have been together for nearly a quarter century now – and their breakout release, 1994’s Smash, is old enough to get a deluxe reissue from Epitaph, released alongside the band’s eighth (seriously, eighth) album, the delightfully pompously titled Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. More often than not, reissuing an old piece of multiplatinum product alongside a band’s latest work is just asking for trouble – but when you’re the Offspring, that isn’t really a concern, because your songs have neither grown nor regressed in the interim.

Longtime fans might bristle at that statement; as with most punk bands made good, the Offspring have generated a lengthy debate among fans and critics over if and when they sold out, and whether their new music is still sufficiently “punk.” But the Offspring were never really “punk” – they were loud, sure, but from the moment they pierced the national consciousness with Smash, they’ve always been a hybrid act, equal parts Ramones and 1910 Fruitgum Company. They might have had an inordinate fondness for downstroked riffs and foulmouthed lyrics, but their sound was spotless – if it weren’t for Dexter Holland’s rusty trombone of a voice, they might as well have been Night Ranger.

Their fans may have debated the particulars, but the Offspring never seemed to regard “punk” as much more than a building block for their meticulously overdubbed AOR – or a launchpad for a series of gratingly unforgettable novelty tracks/Top 40 hits. Thankfully, Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace finds the band letting up on the “humor” – there isn’t a “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” to be found – and those longtime fans should be pleased to discover that the record is louder overall than the band’s recent efforts. It’s more overtly political, too, although we’re still talking about the Offspring here – a quick perusal of the lyric sheet turns up plenty of connect-the-dots rhymes like “I am the rock that pushes away / I gave up tomorrow to spite today.” Social critics, these guys ain’t.

The Offspring

Of course, that isn’t really the point. Offspring records are meant for turning up and rocking out, and even if Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace makes room for a pair of power ballads (“A Lot Like Me” and the awful “Fix You,” which is destined to be a hit) and a pop sing-along (the better-than-it-looks “Kristy, Are You Okay?”), it still succeeds in all the ways it’s supposed to. Producer Bob Rock has dialed back the gloss of albums like Americanain favor of a simpler aesthetic – and given that these are pretty simple songs, with simple hooks, that approach works well.

If you’ve never had much use for the Offspring, this record certainly won’t change your mind – but you’ll still find it hard to deny that for what it is, it’s extremely well-crafted. Who would have guessed that the guys behind “Self Esteem” would still be around in 2008 – and settling gracefully into rock & roll middle age, to boot?

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