If I was asked to pick one album that defined my teenage musical taste, Americana would be it.
I was introduced to the speedy guitar riffs, and unique vocal stylings of The Offspring by a friend of mine in grade 8. His older brother had a pretty extensive Offspring collection at the time, so they ended up providing the background tunes for most of our afterschool Tekken 3 tournaments. No offense to the people behind the Tekken soundtrack, but “Kick Him When He’s Down” should’ve been Lei Wulong’s theme song…. just sayin’. At the time, Americana was their latest release, so it seemed like a good place to start, if I was going to build an Offspring collection of my own.
As a 13 year old boy in Northern Ontario, the fact that the entire album was a satire of American culture went a bit over my head. From the phone menu opening, to lyrics of disillusionment with American dream… it wasn’t exactly new ground, but it was new to me. Almost like a punk rock precursor to The Suburbs by Arcade Fire.
There were plenty of things that I did appreciate about it at the time though. The fact that “Have You Ever” lead seamlessly into “Staring at the Sun” blew my mind at the time. I was a good five years away from hearing the Abbey Road medley, so that extra bit of flair convinced me that The Offspring were punk rock musical geniuses. Not only that, but they even had the audacity to include a hidden song at the end (again, not unlike Abbey Road).
The palm muted guitars, and high speed drum beats went on to provide the blueprint for music that I would be guaranteed to enjoy in high school. Kind of like having iTunes genius only give recommendations based on The Offspring. The music had an edge and aggression to it, but it was never oppressively heavy sounding. It was an odd mix of comfort and danger that really clicked with me. Comforting because you could always count on that prototypical punk sound, and dangerous because they’d toss in just enough curse words to avoid a “Parental Advisory” sticker on the cover.
I don’t listen to as much Offspring these days, but I really can’t imagine what high school would’ve been like without them.