Artist: The Offspring
Album: Days Go By
Genre: Punk rock/pop-punk
Days Go By is an album cloven in three. It’s an unusual mixture of styles and experiments, veering dramatically from the cocksure, cheeky Offspring quirks we know and love to something far more pointed and sombre to something downright bizarre. It’s a good record, and makes for a stirring 40 minutes or so of listening, but it takes a few plays to really settle and even then it’s easy to pick out a few oddities. Being that this is the band’s ninth album, diversions in sound are to be expected and for the most part there’s nothing wrong with them. But the decidedly drastic experiments they undertake on the likes of “Cruising California (Bumpin’ in my Trunk)” (which scared the crap out of UTG back in April) fall flat on their face and knock the tone of the album out of joint.
Days Go By has been in production for almost three years, and the lengthy creative period is obvious in the stark about-turn the album takes as it progresses. It opens on an oddly serious note, with a number of tracks dressing themselves in grim and focused clothing in an attempt to be far more incisive than traditional Offspring fare. These tracks are really good in and of themselves, and yet they have a tendency to sound like overly familiar imitations of other bands. “The Future Is Now” has grandiose and sombre flourishes with more than a touch of Rise Against to them. “Secrets from the Underground” has the same markedly discoloured or dispirited air. It seems preoccupied and grim, the fiery tempo and rousing chorus the only elements that infuse it with life. “Days Go By” is more triumphant, but it seems to borrow heavily from latter-day, stadium rock-era Green Day in doing so (at least to my ears). It’s a mature and reflective song, laced with passion and energy, though it’s hardly as likeable as the others. The proliferation of solos and harmonies hints at bigger, anthemic intentions and while uproarious anthems have long been an Offspring trademark, there’s an obvious gap here from their earlier work that may be difficult to bridge. The talent for mimicry is perhaps a little too convincing, as it makes the songs seem like well-intentioned imitations rather than natural works.
In spite of this, the opening tracks are intriguing, which makes it all the more disenchanting to have them so horribly let down thereafter. After the bracing, frazzled breakdowns of “Turning Into You” and “Hurting As One,” “Cruising California” appears from nowhere like a neon McGuffin. I enjoy a joke as much as the next person, but this song is a joke without a punch-line. If it was intended as some sort of skit or satire on the mindless drivel occupying the charts, it sounds a little too convincing to…convince. Who bribed the band to put this on here? It could conceivably grow on you, but it sounds incredibly silly and really out of place considering the intensity that precedes it. “All I Have Left Is You” is more serious, thankfully – a protracted and heartfelt ode led by a tender piano line. The summer nights feel is endearing enough, although it remains an uncomfortable fit – marrying its lofty sentiments to a crashing guitar chorus seems forced, especially as the rest of the song is so understated. “OC Guns” is like the musical equivalent of Will Ferrell’s recent Casa de mi Padre spoof, with a bewildering array of Latino instruments. It’s farcical but easy to appreciate, as it revives the sense of fun that has been heretofore sorely missing from this album. The vaguely shady undertones actually align it quite well with the earlier songs, though the continuing flip-flop in themes and sounds makes for a very incoherent listening experience.
The final twist in the tale is the last third, which undertakes an adventure all its own. “Dirty Magic” is one of the album’s finest – a cool, rebellious track well anchored by the bass line and harnessing something in the streetwise, brooding analogues of darkwave music. “Diving By Zero” is all velocity – loud, driven, and urgent, like something from a racing game. “Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell” has a ludicrous title that disguises its resigned and resolute nature, though it provides an arresting finale. These pieces are commendable in their own right but they contribute to a shaky and uncontained record overall, one too eager to tick a multitude of boxes and tripping over its surly ambitions.
Days Go By is certainly good, though underwhelming, and all the more so because of the stature of the band behind it. It is possible to run a gamut of sounds on an album and still produce something clearer than this. The tracklisting may be at fault, though it’s difficult to imagine how anyone could align the foreboding opening half with the silliness that follows. It isn’t all flaws, but its tracks might be better appreciated in stages.
Review written by Grace Duffy