Well, it seemed like yesterday and we've already reached The Offspring's 7th studio release, Splinter. It's been quite a while since anyone's heard from the Offspring, dropping Conspiracy of One in 2000 and then staying relatively quiet besides releasing the single "Defy You" for the Orange County Soundtrack...but finally, they've come around to making a new album. The album, originally titled Chinese Democracy as a shot at Axl Rose, the band chose Splinter so as not to get the album delayed because of possible entanglements the band might get into, and also for the thematic nature of the whole album, splintered throughout. The band has more than just a new album in their lineup...they also have a new drummer, Atom Willard, drummer in various punk bands. While Former drummer Ron Welty's beats got a bit tiring and repetitive during the later albums, Willard offers a new punch to the kit and definitely helps the album along the way in more ways than one. So how does it stack up with the other releases?
Splinter opens up with an A.F.I. like opener, "Neocon", which offers tribal sounding drums and chanting. Dexter makes his entrance, shouting rebellious lines at the man, ending with the repeat of "We will never lose to you!".
The album begins with a huge kick in the form of "The Noose", which recalls some of the faster songs off of Conspiracy of One, with an added punch and dosage that was not in that album. The songs begins with a rock styled beat with guitars before it returns to it's punk styled breakbeats and crashing power chords. Holland's fast pace verses set the pace and change tone at all the right places before the song rockets off into the catchy but hard-hitting chorus. Also featuring a nice guitar solo added in, "The Noose" offers an optimistic view for the rest of the album. While those who thought that the faster songs on CO1 were too generic, you may not be won over with "The Noose", but it still offers music that the Offspring do best, and that is hard hitting and catchy rock. The lyrics don't falter either, with some political tinge added, recalling some of the band's older and more urgent material, especially Ignition.
"Long Way Home" uses a fast shuffle like beat and some great drumming by new drummer Atom Willard...it's nothing quite groundbreaking at all, but it's still fast, fun and catchy, and doesn't hurt the album in any way. The verses are especially well done, although the chorus is none too inventive and sounds like a hook done a million times by this band. Following up is the band's lead single, "Hit That", which sounds more like Devo than The Offspring. The song kicks off with an Offspring like intro, at least for the first two seconds...then the keyboard synth kicks off, add a piano...and you've got "Hit That". The Offspring may think they're experimenting and releasing offbeat singles, which they are, but like Americana's "Pretty Fly", and CO1's "Original Prankster", if this one becomes too popular, people may be bleeding out their ears if they hear it too much. Actually, it's not too bad a song, but definitely nothing too ingenious. Experimentation doesn't always lead to success, which is the case here. "Hit That" is the polar opposite of "Long Way Home", offering inspired choruses that properly incorporate the synth elements and really pulls the whole song together, but the verses are filled with forced out synthesizer and piano sounds that just don't work. The song's lyrics are a little better than the song itself though, talking about infidelity and it's effect on families and young kids. The lines are both humorous and true, and add some replay value to an otherwise weird single ("What was a family / is now a shell / we're raising kids now / who raise themselves").
Things get a lot better once "Race Against Myself" hits the speakers. A slower put especially powerful song, the song starts off with another creative rock n' roll styled intro, as Dexter's voice kicks in. The song keeps on a serious note, with Dexter's high pitched voice being used to perfection in the verses and choruses. Atom Willard really pounds into the kit here and gets to show off a bit here as well. The guitar work is especially good, offering hard rock riffs that are very un-Offpsring like, and they work very well. A very viable candidate for the second single on the album (unless The Offspring pride themselves on releasing novelty singles), "Race Against Myself" is powerful anthemic song that picks the album up from it's short section of mediocre material.
"(Can't Get My) Head Around You" could possibly be the best song on the album offering some hard-rocking, hook laden, and energetic rock with some great vocals by Holland and co., and some nice guitar distortions. The song seemingly has ADD, moving in a new direction and trying a new hook every 10 seconds, but it all comes together beautifully. The loud/soft dynamic is used well here, making the hard hitting choruses even harder and more energetic. The only downside is that the song seems so damn short, ending before you know it. Clocking in at 2:15, it has you hooked for every second but ends way too soon. Dexter almost shouts his way through this one, offering some of his most energetic vocals on the album, and also adds some nice distortion effects on his guitar. Few songs on the album match the energy and musicianship that "Head Around You" offers, but again, if it only lasted a bit longer...
The Offspring love to use ska as a tool for humor, and there's no exception on the next song, "The Worst Hangover Ever", which uses ska-styled guitars and some horns on a catchy and humorous song about...you guessed, the worst hangover ever. Lines like "I'll never drink again / at least not until next weekend" and others prove that the band can still make you laugh, or at least me. It's the kind of song that you'll probably end up skipping after a few listens, but it's not a bad song at all and at best a funny and catchy ska song.
"Never Gonna Find Me" offers another lightning fast rocker that doesn't disappoint in the least. It's another speeder, clocking in under three minutes, but again hits hard, and offers a nice change of pace with the catchy and head-bobbing breakdown. The verses and choruses are particularly energetic as well. Again, this is more in line with Conspiracy of One's material, for those curious. "Lightning Rod" doesn't let down on the power meter, and also mixes in more hard-rock styled material incredibly smoothly with the band's more noticeable fast-paced rock. Holland's vocals are once again at their best, adding melody to every note he sings but never sacrificing energy in the least. Noodles works the guitar great as well, offering some particularly noteworthy sections during the song, especially on the hard rock styled bridge and during the chorus.
"Spare Me The Details" trades in Noodle's electric for an acoustic guitar on another pop song that nicely balances humor and musicianship nicely. The song deals with narrator's girlfriend getting in bed with another guy. Needless to say, he doesn't want to hear the play-by-play of it from his friends. It's ultra-poppy, and those not into those acoustic numbers that are loaded with hooks, you won't like it, but for music bozos like myself, it's a catchy and well done song that well please fans of songs like "She's Got Issues" and whatnot. It's definitely a change of pace, and a good one at that. It's sugary sweet, but a nice acoustic number that works on the album surprisingly well.
"Da Hui" the fastest punk number on the album, dealing with a group of legendary Hawaiian Surfers known as Da Hui (had you scratching your heads, didn't I?). The song doesn't offer much in the way of great lyricism or anything, but it's a fast and humorous song heavy in surf terminology, so get your dictionaries out. It's there and gone in a flash like so many songs on this album, but while it's there, it offers another strong punch on the album.
Splinter closes with another useless novelty track, a spoof of 30's songs, offering pointers on how to avoid prison rape. Yes, it's funny and all, but it's nothing more than a waste of two and a half minutes on the album. Even songs like "Hit That" and "The Worst Hangover Ever" have replayability and offer something in the way of musicianship, but "When You're In Prison" is just plain bad. It's like the Offspring yelling "Looky what we can do!". This is the kind of stuff that shouldn't even be on a B-Side/rarities collection, something that should have been left on the cutting room floor or been put on a tape so that the band could have laughed at how high they were when they decided to make this track. The worst part of it all is that the song serves as the closer. When an album like this demands a strong closer, something the Offspring are no strangers to, it instead gets a stupid novelty track that's only mildly humorous.
Splinter is a definitely impressive 7th effort from the group, and doesn't disappoint very many times. Offering a new rock n' roll styled influence used to make an energetic revision of the band's original sound, the songs all have their similarities to older album material, but offer unbridled energy and power, kind of like adding jolts of electricity to Conspiracy of One and adding some creative and original guitar work and Atom Willard's energizing drum work. Speaking of Conspiracy of One, those that absolutely hated that album and Americana may not exactly find Splinter a return to their older sound and not that enjoyable of an album. The songs are still hook-filled and melodic, and many could fit easily in Conspiracy of One or Americana. Since I didn't hate those albums though, I can't really honestly speak for them, so it's all a matter of preference. Personally, minus the novelty tracks and the album's rather short running time as punkrawka addressed, Splinter is a rock solid album that should easily win over fans and possibly please those looking for a more energetic sound from the band. One thing's for sure...this band still has a lot left in them, and it definitely shows here.
V P is a Contributing Writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.