by: The Offspring

It's more mixing of stylized punk revival and hybridism with left-field musical experimentation and in-the-now pop culture lyrical references on Splinter, the Offspring's seventh full-length. "Never Gonna Find Me," "Long Way Home," and "Lightning Rod" each bristle with overdriven guitars and Dexter Holland's high-pitched bleating; they're somewhat workmanlike, but still roil with that precision fury particular to a veteran band. At the same time, Holland, guitarist Noodles, and bassist Greg Kriesel can't resist returning to the towel-slapping trash humor and mean-spirited loathing that typified past tracks like "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" and "Self Esteem." Lead single "Hit That" talks up baby daddies over a bopping bassline and keyboard right out of a Bloodhound Gang track, while "Spare Me the Details" subverts its lighthearted acoustic strum with foul-mouthed (on the clean version, anyway) attacks on a philandering girlfriend ("I'm not the one who acted like a ho"). "Da Hui" overdrives surf rock while paying homage to hardcore Hawaiian board riders, and "When You're in Prison" ends Splinter with sage advice about protecting your dignity in the clink. For whatever reason, the latter track is performed as 1930s Brill Cream dinner theater, complete with the faked crackle of an old 78 and muffled crooner vocals suggestive of a whining Victrola. The curious "Prison" renews the longstanding knock on the Offspring. They're very talented, write killer hooks, and can really crank up a punk rock racket when they want to, like on the Splinter standout "(Can't Get My) Head Around You." But the accessibility and crackling energy come shackled to crassness and frivolity, making the listener wonder whether Holland and his boys are committed to making effective music, or need to fill up albums with throwaways like the directionless "Neocon," the ska-hop predictability of "Worst Hangover Ever," or the aforementioned "Prison." It's the old saying -- the jokes were funny once, but just don't keep over time. This questioning of intent will likely be irrelevant for longtime fans. They'll be more than happy with Splinter, which crams every last piece of the Offspring puzzle -- slickly produced rock racket, hints of anti-establishment rabble-rousing, and reams of relationship and strip mall culture gaggery -- into its brief half-hour run time. ~ Johnny Loftus

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