Inviting the bad times to continue has never been more dangerous than over the past 14 months. Good thing the SoCal Punk icons in the Offspring were at the forefront of social distancing, telling us to “keep ‘em separated” all the way back in 1994. (Bad joke, we know.) Now they’re back to provide us with some new advice on the socially conscious Let The Bad Times Roll, which arrived on Friday, April 16, 2021 via Concord Records.
Innovators of the Southern California Punk Rock scene, The Offspring should require little introduction. With more than 40 million albums sold worldwide over the past three decades, the band has taken home countless aways, toured the globe, and delivered nine exceptional LPs into the hands of their fans. From 1989’s The Offspring to 1994’s Smash to 1998’s Americana , and beyond, their music has made a lasting impact on pop culture.
Now the legendary foursome is back with their first full-length studio offering since 2012’s Days Go By. With the 12-song Let The Bad Times Roll, the Offspring—Vocalist Dexter Holland, Guitarist Noodles, Bassist Todd Morse, and Drummer Pete Parada—is prepared to begin the next chapter of their career. Produced by the legendary Bob Rock (Aerosmith, Metallica), the album is careful to never forget to offer a quirky smile, and yet its belly is thick with timely discussions surrounding war, race, and mental health.
So it’s really no surprise that they choose to open their highly-anticipated tenth disc with the political of “This Is Not Utopia.” A strong activist commentary, but also a powerful statement as to what makes the Offspring tick in 2021, the song acknowledges that America has been flawed from its outset. A catchy rocker that is apt to draw in younger listeners who are just discovering the band, it is splashed with a brand of hyper-aware Pop-Punk that would make fellow punks Anti-Flag proud.
From here, the album meanders through a multitude of topics while never straying far from the sound that has put the band on the top of the charts for the past 27 years and counting. First, there’s the titular offering, “Let The Bad Times Roll,” whose minimalist choruses offer up a shoulder shrug full of frustrated acceptance in the face of chaos. This is topically similar to “Army of One,” which acknowledges the dark times inherent in life, but urges listeners to arm themselves with determination to push toward the light. Also in this vein is “Breaking These Bones,” a look at hiding yourself away when you’re hurting because there’s safety in solitude.
Perhaps the most moving of these moments can be found on “Behind Your Walls.” As the quartet seeks to see the world from someone else’s eyes, they deliver a truly touching moment that practices maximum apathy. Taking the time to empathize with others, especially those who do not look and live just like you, is a lesson that the world definitely needs. Equally important and timely discussions can be found in “The Opioid Diaries” and “Hassan Chops.”
While all of the aforementioned tracks tackle deadly serious issues, on “Hassan Chops,” for example, there’s a brutal wit that underlines that solemnity. But it wouldn’t be an Offspring collection without at least one obviously comedic track—although they do take their shortage of nookie rather seriously. On the sarcastic “We Never Have Sex Anymore,” they joyfully get horn-y (brass, people, brass!) and offer up a dance beat, all in the name of self-mockery.
There are other moments, too, like the frenetic instrumental “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” while perhaps the most traditional, old-school Offspring vibe can be found on “Coming for You.” Here, the raw edges have been sanded off to create a refined rocker. Sure, it doesn’t hit as hard, lyrically, as some of its brothers and sisters, but it does provide a momentary respite with its infectious clap-along.
Ultimately, they choose to end with a beautiful reimagining of the 1997 hit single “Gone Away.” Now a piano ballad with stunning orchestration, the track takes on a more emotional tone, one that allows Holland’s pain to flutter along our senses, reflecting the sincerity of his gossamer longing. To fit the mood of its predecessor without stealing the spotlight, their grand finale, the distorted pleas of “Lullaby,” is an outro that promises that the Offspring are not insane in the membrane
Throughout Let The Bad Times Roll there are no great musical surprises to uncover; it’s fairly standard fare for the band, but taken to the next level. So, yes, they’ve matured considerably since the days when they taunted your lazy ass to get a job and applauded ‘fly’ white guys. Of course, that was two decades ago and even their goofball cousins in blink-182 have grown up. And so, wearing this evolution with pride, the SoCal quartet steps into a new era that sees them sonically refined, but with more to say than ever before. And we think that’s pretty darn Punk Rock! So Cryptic Rock will not ixnay the Offspring; instead we give Let The Bad Times Roll 4.5 of 5 stars. (Even LL Cool J agrees this is how you make a comeback!)