The Offspring, 'Splinter' (Columbia) ; blink-182, 'blink-182' (Geffen)

5
Splinter
Critical Mass
Label: Columbia

by Andrew Beaujon

California knows how to party. While straight-arrow East Coast punks were learning to suppress their gag reflexes while masticating Boca Burgers, their Golden State counterparts were doing beer bongs with hookers and pooping in audience members' handbags. And ever since, it's been fun, fun, fun till Arnie took the state house away.

Splinter is the Offspring's seventh album in 14 years and their fourth for a major label. Before the record was finished, the Orange County natives twitted Axl Rose by announcing that they might name it Chinese Democracy. "Neocon,"Splinter's opening track, invokes a fascist rally with lyrics that clumsily skewer the Bush White House. But fear not --the Offspring would never let politics get in the way of a good anal-rape gag (on the album-closing "When You're in Prison"). In the 29 minutes that separate these achievements, they prove they're still pretty fly for old guys (hardcore chargers "The Noose" and "Da Hui") and that the low-rider beat and "whoa-ohs" that made 1994's "Come Out and Play" a smash will never die ("Hit That"). Still, for a dude seasoned enough to remember '80s post-hardcore also-rans Slovenly, singer Dexter Holland really should have figured out by now that girls don't necessarily leave guys because they're "dumb doughnut[s]." "I'm not the one who acted like a ho / Why must I be the one who has to go?" he whines over a Sugar Ray-diant beat. Maybe it's because he refuses -- albeit sometimes gloriously -- to grow up?

Blink-182's Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus, on the other hand, have spent the past nine years impersonating walking hard-ons, which has tended to overshadow their often excellent pop punk. Whenthey twitted Axl Rose by announcing this album might be called Use Your Erection I & II, no one even flinched. So it's bound to confuse a lot of dumb doughnuts that these San Diegans have made a dark, emotionally intense record, best experienced on headphones. Blink haven't abandoned the crowd-pleasing stop-start songwriting that made hits like "First Date" so much fun, but they've added minor chords and artfully grim lyrics about abusive relationships ("Go") and mortality ("Not Now"). Also,many of the songs are bookended by dubby, synthy instrumentals that suggest the boys have developed hobbies other than measuring their penises. The single, "Feeling This," is about sex, but at the end we realize DeLonge's been alone ever since his night of athletic congress. "So lost and disillusioned," he confesses, and he has never seemed so naked.

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