SMASH AND GRAB
Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:28 January 2022
Coming out of the Californian hardcore punk scene, The Offspring broke through into the big league in 1994 with their third album, Smash. If ever an album deserved an exclamation mark at the end of the title, it’s this one. Maybe even all caps. SMASH!
Showing a full appreciation of Nirvana and the grunge scene, Offspring—they dropped the definite article for this album—showed they listened more widely than the Seattle sound, with slugs of punk (naturally), a splash of surf rock, a wisp of Eastern tonality, ska, garage band fire, and lots and lots of snotty attitude.
But it was their ability to incorporate pounding rock power into their short, punchy songs that elevated them above the pack and made Smash one of the best selling indie albums of all time. Three successful singles helped too, the first of which—"Come out and play (Keep 'em separated)"—sports an Eastern/surf guitar run and a lyric about brawling in the school yard. "Self esteem" opens side two with plenty of grunge heaviness and was the second single from the album. The lyrical concerns of this one reflect on the (young male) protagonist’s struggles to navigate a rather destructive relationship; the more you suffer the more it shows you really care, right? We also get to ponder the important distinction between being dumb but not a dweeb, and after all is said and done, a sucker with no self esteem.
Confusion, possessing minimal relationship skills, and general young adult nihilism are themes that wander through most of the lyrics, inviting similarly disaffected listeners to crank it up real loud and rock the fuck out. Tracks like "Killjoy Powerhead" deliver this brilliantly, as do "Genocide" and perhaps the standout rock track, "Gotta get away". It’s also no accident that many of the songs manage to incorporate lots of yeahs, woahs, and heys. But hey! it worked for the Ramones.
What makes Smash an album to return to, however, is the rhythmic variety. "Not the one" is pounding punkabilly, the single mentioned previously—"Come out and play (Keep 'em separated)"—just sounds different, while the ska-flavoured "What happened to you?" is big fun. That variety was certainly a factor in the album’s success, with Smash going platinum in Australia, while no less an authority than Kerrang! ranked it at #5 in their list of the 50 Greatest Punk Albums Ever. Still, it is the over-arching heavy guitar punch Smash that made the album a hit and that makes it worthy of a revisit today. The Offspring released a new album in 2021: they are still a going concern. Who knows, maybe they will tour Smash for its thirtieth anniversary in 2024.
© Bruce Jenkins 2022