You Gotta Keep ‘Em Alienated: Our 1998 Offspring Feature

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The Offspring
The Offspring

This article originally appeared in the December 1998 edition of SPIN.

It’s been four years since the Offspring brought punk-rock and Mohawks to Main Street. Nowadays it’s getting a little lonely in the mosh pit. Fast-and-furious is about as fashionable as Doc Martens at a Cherry Poppin’ Daddies concert, and most alt-rock hits of late come in one of two flavors: earnest nice-guy pop à la Semisonic and novelty one-shots like Chumbawamba. What’s an unreconstructed punk-rocker to do? “The punk fad might not be the coolest thing in music anymore,” says Mike Peer, music director of New York’s alt-station, K-Rock, “but you have to look at the Offspring as a rock band now. They’ve progressed.”

More from Spin:

One thing’s for sure, the Offspring are due for a hit. Though their third album, Smash, went quintuple-platinum, the 1997 follow-up, Ixnay on the Hombre, sold a less-earth-shattering one million copies. Now, with the November release of the band’s fifth album, Americana, the SoCal punk-pop quartet will find out just how many Offspring fans still want to come out and play. “If we do something different [musically], it’s because it seems fun,” guitarist Noodles says. “I’ve never thought, ‘Oh, man, punk rock’s over. Shit, how are we gonna feed our kids? Let’s do a ska record next.'”

Several tracks on Americana represent a genuine musical departure for the band. “Pay the Man” borders on traditional rock, while “Why Don’t You Get a Job’?” actually mixes in tape loops and horns. Yet the first single, a goofy novelty song called “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy),” has a familiar bratty ring. Kicking off with a grin-inducing sample of the intro to Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages” (“It cost us $10,000,” singer Dexter Holland says. “Hey, it’s art, dude”), the song erupts into a frat-friendly combination of “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” and 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny,” complete with a deep-voiced vocal hook that sounds suspiciously similar to the band’s signature “You gotta keep ’em separated.”

The song mercilessly mocks those guys who, as Holland describes them, “are from, like, Omaha, Nebraska, regular white-bread guys, but who act like they’re from Compton. It’s so fake and obvious they’re trying to have an identity.”

It’s exactly the sort of playground dis that will endear the Offspring to their youngest fans. “I wanted to write a song where people in high school would go, ‘I know exactly who this guy’s talking about: so-and-so in third period,'” Holland says. And if you actually are that guy in third period? “He’ll like it, too. That’s kind of the beauty: making fun of people who don’t know they’re being made fun of.”

To see our running list of the top 100 greatest rock stars of all time, click here.