My Vinyl of the Month

The Offspring – Smash

The Facts

It’s April of 1994 and a lot has been happening in the rock world this year.  Alice In Chains released Jar of Flies in January, the first EP to ever debut at no. 1 on the Billboard 200, February sees Green Day unleash their breakthrough album, Dookie, and by March Nirvana had played their final show in Munich. Just over a month later on the 8th of April the world learned of Kurt’s tragic suicide. The face of the rock world has already been changed dramatically, and it’s about to get hit again, but for all the right reasons.

A few days after the devastating loss of Kurt Cobain, on April 11, The Offspring made their mark on this fast-changing landscape by releasing one of the greatest albums of the year. Smash is The Offspring’s third studio album, released in 1994 on Epitaph Records, run by Bad Religion’s guitarist Brett Gurewitz. It has sold over 11 million copies worldwide, making it one of the highest selling albums released on an independent label of all time.

Their previous two albums, self titled of 1989 and Ignition of 1992 were moderate successes and started to build their following in Southern California, but nothing could prepare them, or the world, for the success of Smash. Not only did this album garner them international attention and skyrocket their rock career, but it also played a huge role in bringing punk into the mainstream. This album, along with Dookie, are heralded as  paving the way for the emerging pop punk scene where heavy riffs and angry lyrics are replaced with a more lighthearted and comical version of teenage angst, accessible to wider audience, but still enough to make your parents cringe.

Three singles were born from this album, “Come Out and Play”, “Self Esteem” and “Gotta Get Away”. “Bad Habit” was popular and received some radio play but was never released as a single. Due to its popularity though, they usually use it as an opener at shows, which is pretty perfect if you ask me.

This album many musical influences other than the obvious punk rock. It takes inspiration from many different music styles and places. The surf scene influence of “Self Esteem” hints at their Cali roots, “What Happened To You” is driven by a Jamaican ska beat, and an Eastern guitar scale is used in “Come Out and Play”. This really gives the album a unique feel that has also helped it to stay rather timeless and makes it still really listenable today. It doesn’t feel like it’s as tied to that 90’s punk scene as a lot of other albums from this era. I don’t really think they really achieved this level of enduring transcendence with any other album, previously or since. I love the way this album starts off with the soothing spoken word intro telling you “it’s time to relax”, getting you all comfy in your favorite easy chair with a glass wine, and then hits you with the rolling drums and super heavy guitar riff intro to the second track “Nitro”. It’s a really great juxtaposition and a big punk “F — you” to anyone with delicate sensibilities.

For me, this is pretty much their last album that I think is amazing from start to finish. Their fourth album, Ixnay on the Hombre, was moderately successful. After this, they went a bit too comical in their style and lyrics, trying to capitalize off the humor that was injected into pop punk by the likes of Blink-182. Singles like “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” from Americana, and “Original Prankster” from Conspiracy of One totally missed the mark, and, in my opinion, turned The Offspring into a bit of a joke. While Americana was a high selling album (10 million copies worldwide), I’ve always felt like they were trying to go in a direction that they seemed a little old for. The band members were in their thirties at the time, now being 30 myself, this seems a little unnecessarily harsh. You can still be cool in your thirties, right? Right guys???

Anyway, as much as I am not the biggest fan of their later work, at least I’ll always have Smash, and Dexter’s braids, to remember them by.

Photo by Martyn Goodacre

The Interesting

This is the only release where the band is referred to as just Offspring. Their original band name was actually Manic Subsidal, but people often confused it for Maniac Suicidal. It’s a good thing they changed it because Manic Subsidal just doesn’t have the same punk rock gravitas as The Offspring.

Lead singer Dexter Holland is a pretty accomplished human being. He excelled in math and science and completed high school as valedictorian. He completed a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a masters in molecular biology and then commenced a PhD in molecular biology (just like me!). After the success of The Offspring in the early 90’s, Dexter put his PhD candidature on hold to focus on rock and roll – how many scientists can say that? In 1997 he finally finished his PhD and has published a paper (under his first name Bryan) on the micro-RNA sequences in the coding regions of the HIV virus. You can read all about it here! He has his own hot sauce brand called Gringo Bandito and is also a licensed pilot and completed a 10 day solo trip around the world in 2004. Seriously, this guy has had a pretty baller life.

You probably already know this, but it’s still worth mentioning: guitarist Kevin Wasserman is nicknamed Noodles and it’s amazing.

The Personal

This album has been a huge musical influence for me, I’ve loved it since I was about 12. It was one of the CDs I would sneak in and steal from my brother’s collection. He was never too pleased about finding one of his albums missing (even though he always knew where to find it) but I think secretly he enjoyed being able to contribute to my musical education.

My favorite song is still “Bad Habit”. I remember in my final year of primary school, our music teacher would let us bring along our own music to play to the class on a Friday. We just had to warn her when there were any “bad words” so she could turn down the music in time so our delicate ears and impressionable minds wouldn’t be subjected. It was then that I realised how much swearing is in the music that I like, I had never really noticed before. Unfortunately for my old music teacher, things haven’t changed much, only now there’s no one to turn down those bits for me! While it might not be something we spin regularly these days, it’s nice to own this little piece of my personal music history, and one of the greatest albums of the 90’s, on vinyl. It’s still every bit as good as I remember. This particular vinyl record is remastered from the original recordings and it sounds great! It’s on 180g vinyl and has an inner printed sleeve with the lyrics and new artwork.

You can pick it up The Offspring – Smash vinyl here if you want to add it to your collection too!