Americana The Offspring 

If you liked The Offspring’s last couple of discs, you’ll like this one. That’s really the simplest way to review Americana, which doesn’t stray from the successful formula of Smash and Ixnay on the Hombre. The “narrator” of past albums (John Mayer) and “Larry Bud Melman” both contribute vocal clips that bookend the album and in between are a stream of fast-paced hard rock riffs that, like their past hit “Self Esteem,” both celebrate and denigrate male losers everywhere. If anything, fast, loud guitars with the occasional Mexicana influence and songs about guys who are emotionally challenged by women seem to have become the trademark of The Offspring.

“Pretty Fly (For A White Guy),” their hit single of the past couple months, is sonically the biggest change of pace on this disc, with its “rap girl” samples, but just as so many Offspring songs before, “Pretty Fly” is blatantly about losers and wannabes (“overcompensate/at least you know you can go on Ricki Lake,” they sing). Likewise, in “She’s Got Issues,” the main character is a downtrodden boyfriend who’s got to deal with his girlfriend’s emotional baggage (including her continuing vocal fantasies about her past boyfriend).

Another track, the very singalong-friendly “Why Don’t You Get A Job?” is about a girl who makes her boyfriend work to support her while she sits at home, eats and spends all of his money. The Offspring are easily the patron rock saints for every guy who’s felt “victimized” by women. Maybe they’re misogynists or maybe they’ve just had a lot of bad relationships, but to cap it all off, this album also includes a cover of the old Morris Albert classic “Feelings,” though this time it’s sung with angst not love — “feelings, feelings of hate,” they growl — and it has a pretty heavy guitar that I don’t remember being in the original!

There’s nothing to set this album apart from other Offspring discs — it’s really a continuation of their past two releases — but if you want some high-octane driving music with a good sense of humor behind it, this is a great disc to buy.


'80s Revisited

If you were in college during the early to mid-’80s, you probably heard a lot of music on your college radio station that you’ve never heard on the airwaves since. Many of the artists went on to have big pop hits, but at this stage, OMD, Thomas Dolby and Echo & The Bunnymen were strictly underground. It was during the ‘80s that the synonymous terms “college” and “alternative’ music came into vogue, complete with their own set of hit charts. When those teens of the ‘80s grew up, they helped make many of their college music faves full blown pop stars, although the media continued to refer to them as “alternative” acts. (The Cure, R.E.M. and New Order can hardly be considered “alternative” in this age when they release gold and platinum records).

What’s my point here? Rhino Records has gone back to those early days of “college” music and put together a three-CD set of Post Punk Chronicles featuring many well known artists of today, but including their early singles, not the later big hit songs that made them known beyond the world of college radio. Some of these you’ll remember, some you won’t, but the set certainly captures the “sound” of alternative in the ‘80s. Included on Post Punk Chronicles: Scared To Dance are early, edgy songs from Echo & The Bunnymen, The Stranglers, Heaven 17, Simple Minds, Magazine, Ultravox, OMD, The Cult, Japan, Killing Joke and more. The Post Punk Chronicles: Left of the Dial disc includes the original version of R.E.M.’s “Radio Free Europe” (it’s faster then the Murmur album version), as well as Thomas Dolby’s “Airwaves,” Joy Division’s “Transmission” and New Order’s “Ceremony” (the latter two appropriately tracked back to back, since New Order formed out of the ashes of Joy Division). The disc also includes songs from Mission of Burma, Dream Syndicate, Cocteau Twins, Modern English, The Chameleons and more. The third disc in the series, Post Punk Chronicles: Going Underground, includes the ever-gloomy Smiths and Lyres, as well as songs from The Teardrop Explodes, Billy Bragg, The Go-Betweens, The Soft Boys, Gang of Four, Throbbing Gristle, Green On Red, The Three O’Clock, The Jam and Pere Ubu. For many music fans currently in their 30s, this may be the ultimate “K-Tel of College” collection.

You know, it seems like Player only had one hit — the ever popular ballad “Baby Come Back.” But it’s followup song “This Time I’m In It For Love” managed to crack the top 10 Billboard Singles chart a few months later in early 1978, and a third song, from their second album got into the Top 40 later that same year, “Prisoner of Your Love.” The band also scored three other singles in the Top 100 over the next four years, but never recaptured the success of that first #1 hit. Despite that, they reformed a couple years ago and now Hammer & Lace Records has released The Best of Player - Baby Come Back, with all those charting hits as well as a bunch of other songs from their five albums (including two from their 1996 reunion disc).