[Features] The Offspring – Punk or Sell-out?


Debate over neo-punk has been going on non-stop for years. Is contemporary pop-punk just another pop shit using “punk” as a mean of promotional or it’s a sub-division of punk after 30 years of development? Let see what we can see from The Offspring.

Some people claimed the explosion of punk bands like The Offspring and Green Day  were to blame for harming the punk scene. To me, this is a never-ending debate. Because punk was created to prove that everyone can be musicians and express themselves with music, in other words, punk is meant to be POPULARIZED; but punk is also aimed for the outcasts who cannot find a niche in the social idealism, so, it’s basically NOT for everyone. I’m not here trying to stand by any sides.

What I’m concerned is… Have these neo-punk bands changed after the breaking into the mainstream? Are they still creating music with the punk mentality? Do they stick to the punk ground to make music and somehow thousands of people want it at the same time coincidently? Or they make melodic music with greedy minds for the mass audience so selling out is part of their plans?

Let’s take The Offspring as an example. They started out as an underground band through indie record label; and all the sudden the least anyone would ever expected actually happened – they become a million-record-selling band. They broke into the mainstream. Smash (released in 94) which features hits like Come Out and Play, Self Esteem and Gotta Get Away. Smash is composed with a mix of sound of ska punk, alternative and hardcore / heavy metal. This album sounded different from their previously released Ignition (released in 92) and was able to differentiated from the punk trend of that time when Smash was released. And this shift from pure punk rock to the combination of different  musical elements was clearly accepted by the listeners. The truth is, this kind of cross-grene approach has planted the seed of the upcoming pop punk trend.

Again, there’s no good or bad when I said The Offspring might be one of the “trend-setter” for pop punk. Trend can be good. Everyone is doing something in trend. Trend is part of the pop culture. The old-skool punk is part of the pop culture in 70’s as well. There’s nothing to be shame about.

Personally, I consider Ignition and Smash as punk rock albums because I believe when Dexter Holland & co. created these two massive-selling albums had not expected them to be the top of the chart. And if you pay attention to what they were singing, you can actually their lyrical themes are pretty punk. So, I bet breaking into the mainstream is just a coincidently thing, not intentionally.

I mean… take a look at Black Flag, Bad Religion, Minor Threat, etc. They are popular but they are punk as fuck. Of course, they never really break into the mainstream like The Offspring did. It’s just a metaphor. I just try to point out that you can be famous and popular and still remain as real punk.

However, I started to doubt their “punk loyalty” when I heard Ixnay on the Hombre (released 1997) and Americana (released 1998). They sounded even more poppier and their mix of sound had reached to an extent that they started to lose the punk edge The Offspring once had. It was like a kid lost his way at the crossroad. Still, it’s worth to give a credit for Americana’s concept-album approach. And its artwork was pretty awesome.

The following Conspiracy of One (released 2000), Splinter (2003) and Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace (released 2008) are just average. The Greatest Hits released 2005 was like marking an E-N-D to their 20 years of musical career because they have not put out any more remarkable music, in terms of both punk originality or record-selling.

And now, in 2012, THe Offspring is gonna release their new album, Days Go By on 26th June. To be frank I do not have much expectation after listening to their promo of the first single on YouTube, though, I guess I will give it a try when it’s released. If it fails, I do not think I will ever buy their new music again ‘cause by that time they will be forever sellout to me.

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