The Offspring
Ixnay on the Hombre
(Columbia)
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You have to love a band that starts off with a circus barker giving a "Disclaimer" which warns, "this album contains explicit depictions of things which are real. These real things are commonly known as life."

For the next dozen songs, The Offspring continue down a path familiar to those who bought 1994's Smash or heard its hit hard rock singles "Come Out And Play" and "Self Esteem." Frenetic drum-bashing, rhythmic guitar pounding and staccato belted vocals are The Offspring's stock and trade. They do try out a few minor textural changes on Ixnay On The Hombre, notably some "south of the border" melody flourishes. For example, on "Mota," which finds the buzzsaw guitars mirroring the beat of the drums, I kept expecting them to shout "Tequila."

If this were the '80s, The Offspring would simply be called a metal band, but these days, you can refer to them as high octane punky alternative rock. Call it what you will, but on "Me & My Old Lady," a Gen X love song whose main chorus repeats, "she ain't no ball & chain," the band sounds like a cross between Faster Pussycat and Jane's Addiction. That same ‘80s hard rock edge is obvious on the big stadium chorus of "Gone Away," which decries "And it feels like heaven is so far away...now that youve gone away." There's even a hint of early U2 guitar and vocal in "Gone Away"'s verse structure.

Nicking a riff or sound from other bands comes natural to The Offspring; in "I Choose," the boys pull together another Jane's Addiction "Been Caught Stealing"-style rhythm fest, with scads of percussion and a funky guitar line that's miles away from "Self Esteem."

Utilizing some of the sarcasm that the opening "Disclaimer" warns about, "Cool To Hate" runs through a litany of things to hate atop a chugging cliche guitar riff ("being positive's so uncool").

Midway through the album a familiar voice turns up: the "high-sounding hepcat" monologuist from Smash introduces the "Intermission," a cheesy, instrumental horn run-through of "Tea For Two." He's not the only familar face on Ixnay. "Change The World" takes the uncredited instrumental track that ends Smash and turns it into a full-blown production. And "Don't Pick It Up" reads like a funkier, slower version of "Smash It Up" from the Batman Forever soundtrack. Its call-response verses and faux reggae toast break make it one of the CD's most fun listens.

There's not a breakout song like Smash's "Come Out and Play" (better known by its tagline of "Keep ‘em separated") on Ixnay, but song for song, this one's the better album. If you're tired of the last Green Day album and despondent of whiny Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains songs, this is the pumped up rockfest you've been waiting for. Occasionally mindless and often wickedly funny, The Offspring know how to rock. Fast.

 

MISCELLANEOUS:


Looking for some authentic Celtic music to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but don't want to listen to a bunch of scratchy old Clancy Brothers records? Windham Hill, long known for its atmospheric textural jazz releases, has put out two albums perfect for giving St. Patrick's Day a properly Celtic flair. Nightnoise's The White Horse Sessions is a live recording by a quartet that features piano, guitar, whistles and fiddles. Much of the album is filled with pleasant instrumentals that roam from flute-frollicking jig to piano and synthesizer colored ballad. Pianist Triona Ni Dhomhnaill steps up to the mic for one song (with an authentic tremelo brogue). This is the sort of gentle music to read fairy tales to, or sit quietly before the dying winter embers of fireplace. Speaking of fairy tales, Music of Celtic Legends, from Jeff Johnson & Brian Dunning, takes its cue from two ancient Celtic tales of adventure. The duo use keyboards, flutes, Uilleann pipes and accordion along with backing instrumentalists on guitar, percussion and occasional angelic-sounding vocals to weave a gentle tapestry of New Age-y Irish music that the artists encourage people to listen to while reading fairy tales — the tales are provided with the album. The CD booklet includes two stories of Celtic legend by fantasy author Stephen Lawhead which inspired the music of the disc. The music itself is placcid and calming, bouyed by sound effects of rushing waves and led by somber melodies of pipes and flute.

Chicago's ILF becomes New Music Festival
Chicago's Independent Label Festival, which for the past five years has served as a showcase for local acts and independent record labels has changed its name to Chicago's New Music Festival. The festival's founder, Leo Lastre says that "major labels and major label affiliated independent labels are now welcome to participate in this event." There are also plans for the festival to introduce wristbands which will get festival attendees free entry to all of the nightclubs which participate in the New Music Festival. The daytime portion of NMF will be held on July 25-26 in the Ramada Congress Hotel on Michigan Ave. in Chicago. At night, showcases of local bands are held at a variety of downtown clubs. Bands and fans interested in participating in the festival should contact Jo-Ella Cicero at (312) 341-9112.