For years now, it seems like a new The Offspring album has been promised like a new Avatar movie. There were rumblings of a new record being recorded as early as 2013, but nothing came to fruition despite the band hyping up their progress. In this time, they left the record label they’ve been a part of since 1996, Columbia Records, and also parted ways with long-time bass player Greg K. After the delays, band drama, national chaos and a global pandemic, the band finally dropped their first new album after nine years, the appropriately titled Let the Bad Times Roll.
The Offspring – now consisting of singer/guitarist Dexter Holland, guitarist Noodles, drummer Pete Parada and bass player Todd Morse – have now been a band for 37 years. I knew coming into this album it would be foolish to think they’d drop another classic on the level of Smash and Americana this late into their career. However, after growing up loving the band, there’s always that nostalgic side of me that hopes they do. Sadly, Let the Bad Times Roll was indeed not one of their best albums, but there’s a handful of moments here that just might bring a smile to the face of Offspring fans.
Let the Bad Times Roll is littered with all traits that The Offspring have been known for. There’s loud, fast guitars and drums, tracks with satire and ones that aren’t afraid to get real by diving into problems that are currently engulfing the lives of many. There are songs reacting to the era of Trumpism, drug addiction, mental illness and the overall mess that the world currently is.
The album kicks off with “This is Not Utopia,” a song that has a classic Offspring feel to it. Holland sings about the current boiling point of our country as he belts out “The roots, the roots of America/ Are the roots, the roots of hysteria / The rules don’t matter anymorе,” on the chorus. The repeating “roots” here reminds me of when the Bloodhound Gang echoed “The roof, the roof is on fire” on “Fire Water Burn.” While the track sounds like The Offspring we all know, there’s something about the production on Holland’s vocals that just feels off on this one (could also be how he sounds after almost four decades of doing this). Just as the vocals sound different than usual, we get some familiar Offspring on the next track, “Let the Bad Times Roll”, which features plenty of their signature “Ohs” and Holland delivering vocals with a brisk pace. The bad times keep on rolling with “Behind Your Walls,” a track that tackles depression and is up there with the more serious songs the band have composed in their career.
Every Offspring album is always good for a few guitar chords that worm their way into your brain and “Army of One” owns that title on this one. The main riff has serious “Misirlou” vibes and it helps make the track one of the best on the album. This goes right into “Breaking These Bones,” which will remind you of “Can’t Repeat” off of their Greatest Hits.
The Offspring have never been a band to take themselves too seriously. There’s always a couple of tracks on each album that are written with a splash of humor and sarcasm. After all, this is the same band who have created songs like “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)”, “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” and “The Worst Hangover Ever.” Let the Bad Times Roll has a few moments like this, but the most noteworthy was the single “We Never Have Sex Anymore.” It was a wild choice to make this song a single, but this has the type of lyrics you’d expect The Offspring to write in their late 50’s. However, they throw a curveball by making this sound like something you’d hear on the streets of New Orleans with all the horns and the overall swing of the track.
The front half of the album should make longtime fans of the band nod their heads mostly in approval, but the back half is where the album takes a bit of a dive. While “The Opioid Diaries” is in contention as one of the best songs on the album and the Smash-like “Hassan Chop” could be placed into the “alright” category, most of the material on the backend didn’t work for me.
My biggest issue with the album, especially the back half, is that after nine years of not releasing a full length album, I was expecting more new original material than what was presented here.
“Coming for You” was originally released as a single in 2015, yet it still found its way onto this album six years later instead of remaining as a standalone single. For reasons I still don’t understand, they recorded a one-minute-long punk version of “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” which is a piece of classical music from 1875 composed by Edvard Grieg (if you don’t recognize it by name, you’ll know it when you hear it). This brings us to the re-recorded piano version of “Gone Away.” While I get that after the past year we all went through, this rendendition feels appropriate, but I don’t feel like it should’ve been placed on the new album. The band already plays “Gone Away” like this live, so why not release this as a live standalone track? This is now the second album in a row The Offspring decided to dust off an old song instead of writing something new. On Days Go By, the band re-recorded “Dirty Magic”, which originally appeared on 1992’s Ignition.
“Lullaby” wraps up the album with a 1:12 long track that reprises “Let the Bad Times Roll” in a gentle way, but leaves the listener wanting. If you factor in all four of these songs I mentioned, that means you’re basically left with just eight new Offspring songs out of 12. For an album that started to be created in 2013, I hoped for better.
At the end of the day, what we have here is basically another Days Go By except there’s no single as strong as “Days Go By.” By that logic this means this might be the worst album in their catalog, but there’s enough here where you won’t feel like you gotta get away.