Eight albums into their career, and The Offspring appear to have aged fairly well. Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace may not be much of a progression from the band’s earlier material, but there wasn’t much that needed changing. If anything, it’s good to hear that they appear to have largely abandoned their millennial cartoon pop songs for a return to the high-energy punk rock that gained them their reputation in the first place.
Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace isn’t as raw and unpolished as Smash, but that’s probably due in no small part to major label recording facilities and Bob Rock on production duties. The Offspring‘s perennial grasp of a fast melodic hook is still there, though, propelled by a rhythm section tighter than an emo’s trousers and a reassuringly beefy guitar sound, and Dexter remains one of the most distinctive – if not necessarily inventive – vocalists of his generation.
Recent free-to-download single “Hammerhead” gives the young turks a run for their money, with simple chord sequences and hard-hitting drums running beneath Dexter’s urgent howling making the SoCal punk template sound surprisingly fresh, and certainly represents a peak of power among the songs on Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace. Likewise, “Takes Me Nowhere” is classic West Coast skater rage – bouncy, sweaty and made for live shows.
“A Lot Like Me” pays more of a nod to the MySpace generation, with a much more heavily-produced sound – reverbed piano and a wide soundscape back up angsty vocals delivering a down-and-out anthem that never sounds like a surrender; it’s an obvious attempt by The Offspring to fit in with modern tastes, and I’d be willing to place money on it being the next single. “Fix You” and “Nothingtown” also partake of this radio-friendly sound, but we get honest stories instead of teenaged whining – a depth of narrative that is hard to find in younger acts.
I suspect the enduring fan favourite from Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace will be the acoustic nostalgia-jangle of “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?” – it has that easy-to-cover simplicity that’ll see it jammed out around burnt-out barbecues and campfires over the coming summer – provided we actually get one this year, that is.
There’ll be plenty of people who will slam Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace, saying it’s not as good as their earlier stuff, that they’ve sold out, so on and so forth. Truth be told, The Offspring‘s sound has grown up and filled out a little, but to listen to their lyrics makes it plain that they’ve not fallen into the rock-star trap of being out of touch – “Stuff Is Messed Up” is definitely not the sound of a band going through the motions, and album closer “Rise And Fall” has all the adrenaline and melody you could ask for. Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace isn’t quite “all killer, no filler”, but it hits enough home runs to make it more than worth the time.