Though Berkeley’s Green Day still holds the now tattered standard for the mid-’90s pop-punk revival, their Southern California cognate, The Offspring, better represents the commercial realities of that revival over time. Formed in the late ’80s, The Offspring were a staple on the underground punk and metal circuits until their 1994 album, “Smash,” became the biggest-selling indie record in history, at which point the group buckled and eventually signed with a major.
The frat-boy misanthropy (funny songs about Arabs, Vanilla Ice, and other easy targets) and earnest self-deprecation that first made the band a hit among disaffected SoCal surfer dudes became institutionalized on subsequent albums and incorporated into the band’s arena shows with skits, props, and elaborate audiovisual presentations. Old fans claim the band no longer talks to them, but in the past 10 years a whole new audience has emerged who love the conversation, and it’s easy to see why. Dexter Holland, when not making fun of the flat delivery of metal singers, is a fluid, funky vocalist, and Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman is the kind of journeyman guitarist who understands that Jimmy Page was just as vital an influence on punk as Johnny Ramone was. Whatever the group’s lyrical and topical agenda is at any given moment (on the new album, “Splinter,” it includes prison, neoconservatives and “real” surfers), they always manage to make a wonderful racket.
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