Days Go By seems like an appropriate title for The Offspring’s first album in four years (especially given the five-year gap before that one), which has been in the works since 2009. That kind of convoluted gestation period usually spells trouble, so it’s not a great surprise that it’s a bit hit and miss.
It’s safe to say that their career trajectory since the turn of the millennium has been the opposite of fellow So-Cal punks Green Day, who have gone from strength-to-strength-to-Broadway-musical, whereas The Offspring have found themselves victims of novelty success. When they make a jokey song, they’re just trying to repeat the same trick, when they play it straight, the mainstream ignores them.
Perhaps it’s that dilemma that kept them working on Days Go By for so long, but they’ve managed to find a new blend between their core audience and more casual fans. The lead single and title track is a case in point, because while it’s not aimed at the people who loved Pretty Fly (For A White Guy), it’s melodic enough to sound like more than just another punk song, without ‘selling out’ (though The Offspring must have given up on that argument long ago).
Songs like Turning Into You are what they do best, with memorable guitar hooks, shouts of ‘hey’ to keep the mohawks happy and a catchy chorus to get the fists pumping in the pit at gigs. Of course, the danger of making music that so familiar is that some songs can just sound like you’ve heard them before, with Hurting As One sounding like about five or six past Offspring songs, right down to the ever-so-familiar backing vocals on the chorus.
One song sounds exactly like a past track, and that’s because it IS a past track, Dirty Magic from Ignition, which gets baffling done again without anything notably different being done to it. But some songs sound nothing like them, like the power ballad All I Have Left Is You, which could be almost anyone else until the chorus kicks in. OC Guns is at least different, a weird blend of mariachi horns, Spanish-language vocals and reggaeton beats. It just doesn’t really work.
And then there’s the novelty song, Cruisin’ California (Bumpin’ In My Trunk), which may have the Ramones’ ‘hey ho, let’s go’ intro, but is full of hip-hop and Holland’s vocals sound worryingly like Weird Al’s impression on him on Pretty Fly (For A Rabbi). It’s fun enough, but there’s a little too much going on without any of it really sticking, and it sounds a bit too self-consciously like a band trying to repeat old successes. But it would be a surprise if they achieved that with it.
It ends strongly with the excellently-titled Slim Pickens Does The Right Thing And Rides The Bomb To Hell after another decent couple of tunes, but overall Days Go By isn’t a classic album by any means. It sounds a lot like an album that was done in dribs and drabs over a few years, with different times and different ideas not quite meshing together, and the attempts to break the punk shell around them are a bit too knowing and cliched to be successful as songs or singles. It’s not bad, really, but they’ve done a lot better.