The Offspring - Americana
Record Label: Columbia
Release Date: November 17, 1998
After the unprecedented and unexpected success of their third album, Smash way back in 1994, the Offspring were faced with a major problem: Where do you go from there?
Where their contemporaries, the even more successful Green Day just went on to chuck out carbon copy of their breakout album Dookie one year after its release, The Offspring waited three years to release the follow up Ixnay on the Hombre. Despite being even better than the already amazing Smash, the record failed to create as much a hype as Smash did and, while critically acclaimed, was a commercial failure of sorts.
One year after Ixnay, the Offspring were ready and hungry again and released their most successful album to date: Americana. The record that spawned Offspring evergreens such as “The Kids aren’t alight” and “Why don’t you get a job”, also marks a turn in the bands career. It’s the first album to feature what many consider a “Joke song” as its first single.
And “Pretty Fly (For a white Guy)” was exactly what the record label was looking for: a massive hit that put the band back on the map and TV screens around the world. And while the song actually has some quite clever lyrics, it is, largely because of the video that accompanied it, panned as simply a joke.
Not entirely unfair, it does take away some of the credit the song deserves, as it is at its core a witty and poignant observation of a certain type of “human” we all had to put up with in the late 90s.
The melody and solo in “The Kids Aren’t Alright” are probably the best and most recognizable the band has ever written, apart maybe from Smash’s "Genocide". Topped off by the to the point and well written lyrics, about the changes singer Dexter Holland observed in his old neighborhood, the songs ranks among the best of the band and the entire decade.
There are many more stellar examples of how good this band was at their peak. The opener “Have You Ever” showcase the bands brilliant ability to mix the blistering energy of punk with great melodies and intelligent lyrics.
And then there are the fast, to the point punk breakers such as “Staring At The Sun” and “No Brakes”: No gimmicks, no unnecessary experiments in sound, just guitars, bass, fast drums, great melodies and high pitched vocals. All done in less than 3 minutes. "Walla Walla", another sort of ” joke song” about a man going to prison, complete with a reference to Washington State Prison in the title, falls into the same category, if you don’t mind the silly lyrics.
The title track "Americana" is a dark, mid temp rock song, that would have fit well on Smash and Ixnay as well and is lyrically the most socio-critical song the band has ever written and leads into one of the bands best, yet most underrated songs. The finale, Pay the Man, marks another step further away from their punk roots and towards a slightly more experimental sound, as it features an extensive eastern style intro before bursting into a mid-tempo punk jewel near the end.
The only real problem with the record is "Why Don’t You Get A Job?", a blatant rip off of the Beatles “Obladi Oblada”, it just feels as if the band didn’t even make an effort there. And unfortunately it was a sign of what was to come on further records as well.
All in all, Americana ranks among the bands best albums, and is one of the best rock records of the latter half of the 90s.
While many people may dismiss the entire record on the basis of its, admittedly, mediocre singles, anyone interested in pop punk of the late 90s or in general should give Americana a go. It is well worth it.