Americana: Soundtrack for a Declining Civilization

The Offspring - Americana
(Columbia Records)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

"America today is totally a freak show", exclaims Dexter Holland, lead singer and guitarist from the West Coast post-punk band, The Offspring.
America may have been the land of big cars, backyard barbecues and a comfortable life in the suburbs, but according to The Offspring, pierced kids, Jerry Springer, Wal-Mart and Taco Bell are really where this country is at today.
On their latest release Americana, following their multi-platinum selling albums Smash and Ixnay On The Hombre, The Offspring expose some of America's cultural craziness, channeling their message through short, bombastic punk numbers.
After the successes of their previous work, the band - which features Holland, along with Greg K (bass), Noodles (guitars / vocals) and Ron Welty (drums) - could easily have been swayed to produce a more poppy, mainstream album. Instead they have stayed true to their southern California punk roots on Americana, often mirroring some of their early musical influences such as The Dickies, TSOL, and Social Distortion.
While the majority of the album energetically whips itself into a punk lather with snotty anthems such as "Have You Ever", "Americana" and a delicious, tongue-in-cheek cover of the Morris Albert standard "Feelings", the band manages to make a couple of welcome musical detours. On their first single from the album "Pretty Fly For A White Guy", a song about an unhip, white youth doing whatever it takes to be cool (i.e. tattoos, body piercings, etc.), the band uses cornball catch-phrases and pseudo-metal to their advantage. The happy-go-lucky sound of The Beatles "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", can be heard on "Why Don't You Get A Job", a number which deals with free-loading mates. (Do I hear Jerry Springer?) Cloaked in the mysticism of Jane Addition's epic "Three Days", the band adds a hazy, East Indian influence to Holland's droning chants on "Pay The Man" before it explodes into churning metal mayhem. Steeped in Mediterranean rhythms, American television icon Larry Bud Melman chimes, "And all the girlies say I'm pretty fly for a white guy" on the hidden, run-out track. (When somebody as unhip as Melman is misconstrued as cool then I'd have to agree with Holland, these are indeed freakish times we live in.)
Americana also features an enhanced cd-rom which contains all four videos from Ixnay On The Hombre ("All I Want", "Gone Away", "Meaning Of Life", and "I Choose") as well as interviews of the band. It also features a Karaoke bar (another sign of the decline of Western civilization?) which allows you to walk up to the microphone, follow the scrolling lyrics and sing along with your favorite Offspring song.
Commentating on the demoralization of America, The Offspring's soundtrack for our changing times at least makes this strong dose of reality a little easier to swallow.

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