It's easier to dismiss now, but we forget how many copies this record sold. I was of course one of those children, frustrated and uncertain(although for unexplained reasons) who drove out in flocks to get this “Punk Rock” record. Much like Green Day, except to a lesser extent, the Offspring and their giant fourth album “Smash” was full of angst, sweat, and the turmoil of growing up. I was never a punk guy and I assume many punk rock purists don't consider this band to be punk, but for my fourteen year old self, the Offspring's “Smash” was the best thing in the world of punk rock I had ever heard. Today we discuss the next entry in the Albums of my Life series, “Smash” by the Offspring.
The signature opening is still pretty great. That dude's voice is so nice, warm, and welcoming. It especially helps that the rest of the record is both abrasive and uplifting, which is in line with the punk rock scene. “Nitro [Youth Energy]” sounds exactly like you would expect a song with that name to be. It's hard driven to a break neck pace and it does it's job by getting things started off at a good speed. That's important in an album opener, and the Offspring nail it here.
Many of the songs deal with issues both personal and frustrating. The third track, “Bad Habit” is a rage filled song for road rage victims. Dexter Hollands lyrics and vocally rushed style perfectly compliment the whole point of the song. A “Bad Habit” can be many things, but in this instance, it's the ferocity of a scorned automobile driver that is the subject matter. Everyone has moments of road rage and pure hatred, and this selection perfectly captures the vitriol of the situation.
Moving along, this album did so well because of giant singles “Self Esteem” and “Come Out and Play”(more on those later), but for my money there isn't a better single on this record than “Gotta Get Away.” The drumming is really tight all the way through, and the even keeled bass is the compliment to the guitars that's very much welcomed and appreciated. This might even be my favorite song by the band. As a person who's dealt with depression, severe frustration, and uncertainty this song always had a hold on me. Music is better when you can relate to the circumstances of the author, and with this song, and the album on a whole, the Offspring tapped into the veins of millions of teenagers pissed off about their lives. Let's talk about how huge this band was in it's heyday. Thirty million copies worldwide sold of this record, and although future album's weren't as highly sought after or acclaimed, this is the one that got the band on the map, and as you can hear it's still a great album. It also helped set the stage for the future of “Pop Punk.” If not for these so-cal punkers, bands like Sum 41, Blink 182 and New Found Glory wouldn't have ever had the success they did, Maybe the world of music wouldn't be so bad without those bands, but hey you can't help who's inspired by your music.
Pretty soon, we find ourselves in the heart and soul-filled middle of the record. “Something to Believe In” finds us and perhaps it's the closest to a pure punk track on the album. The background wails are awesome, and the lyrics are words that speak both of thinking there's no hope left in the world but also speak to the need of progressing and persevering over intolerance. That's a big thing in this world, and it's a concept that the band takes to heart and tries to overcome. Everyone needs that in life at times. “Something to Believe In” is akin to the thought of a person waking up everyday and having a goal and endpoint in sight. The promise of a hard day's work is so sweet because of the promise of the victorious evening and weekend we'll soon find ourselves in. It's also in line with people who have a place to go to everyday living longer and more plentiful. The title of the track can mean different things for different people, but it's necessary for us all. Following the track though, we get to the two main reasons this band has continued to go on and be well known outside of their circle. “Come out and Play” is the anthem kids at the time needed. It was also highly beneficial for the band. The guitar line is classic 90's rock, and Holland's guitar and vocal range are really things that pull the song in.
The next song though, is a giant rock for the band. At the time I wasn't sure what the lyrics of the track “Self Esteem” actually had to do with, but having grown up, it's pretty clear now. Having been through difficult relationships, both on the friendship and romantic sides, you relate to the character. I think a certain amount of people really want to believe that everyone has great qualities to them, but that's not always the case. Some people truly are selfish and thoughtless when it comes to the needs of others. Unfortunately we live in a “me” society, and the problem will only get worse. Having said that though, I still believe people can be utterly good at times, but to be completely honest, stories about good people don't make good songs.
It's after “Self Esteem” that the album get's decidedly more punk rock, both in the essence of the music and the lyrical content. “It'll be a Long Time” is full of political minded leanings that speak to the state of world reform and the urgency to act. One of the best things about this band though is how intelligent they are. Holland for example has a B.S, M.S, and is currently pursuing his P.H.D. in various area's of biology. I mention this only because it shows that musicians can be extremely talented in a multitude of areas, and also that the rules of punk rock had changed. I doubt Sid Vicious could even properly spell, so it's good to know that people are able to grow.
“So Alone” is one of the most immediate tracks on the album, and as the end of the record nears, it is a much needed stay the course track for the record. The guitars are passed up by speed only by the constant drumming in the background. It's a swift punch to the face, but sometimes that's the kind of song you need. The second to last track “Not the One” has a biting guitar part that has become a staple of this album. This band's prime may have passed, but one of the best things about them is that the chords, lyrics, and overall feeling of the album still resonate in the bones of people who grew up listening to it. That's a quality that much of today's music lacks, sadly.
Rarely does it happen where the best song on the album is the last one, but this is one of the best cases of it. “Smash,” which happens to be the title track as you likely noticed, is the culmination of all the other songs. Aesthetically it's very much in the same world as the previous tracks, but to me there's always been a little extra to it. It's not the fastest song on the record, and it's not the longest, but it's the most honest. This is a song about a person at the end up their rope. It's defiant in the best way possible, and it's a major fuck you to the powers of conformity. It's a song about being alive and breathing in the air of negativity and turning it into victory for yourself. The lyrics are also the most punk you find on the whole album. Seriously, I could listen to this song every day and not get sick of it. It's a song for power, positivity, and it exemplifies the need to be true to yourself. At the end of the day though, the major tagline of the song can serve not only as the basis for the spirit of the whole record, but for people who have been bullied, told they didn't matter, and forced to do things against their code. That line of course is “I'm not a trendy asshole, don't give a fuck if it's good enough for you. I am alive.”
Thanks for reading.
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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