The Offspring Sell Out (Manhattan Center) by Otto Luck

Dexter Holland is a few points shy of a Ph.D. (he majored in Jello Biafra 101) and I'm a college dropout. Now, I wouldn't let such a thing affect my review of the Offspring's sold-out performance at Manhattan Center on May 22, 1997 – I'm a fair-minded writer, after all, well-trained in the school of objective journalism, or my name isn't Walter Cronkite.

Nonetheless, I must admit, I have a few problems digesting the Offspring's shtick. For one thing, their set kicks off with a Jello Biafra voice-over which says things like, "Okay, boys and girls, I know you came here to fuck shit up, to get drunk and puke in the bathroom ..." Upon hearing this, I thought, "Who does Dexter and the gang think we are, a bunch of assholes?"

Soon, however, I had a change of heart. I looked around me and concluded, what the hell, he's probably right. And as the opening number began, I was further won over by the Offspring, Inc. They are a powerhouse of a band with a truckload of top-notch punk material.

One immediately notices that the Offspring are a hyperactive lot. If nothing else, their energy level is impressive, to say the least. To watch them on stage is not unlike witnessing a soccer match where the players have drank way too much coffee. And you can't slight the band's sound – they seemed to have no difficulty filling the huge cavern of the Manhattan Center with endless volleys of temple-pounding music. Their amps obviously are in good working order.

While watching the show, it occurred to me that – as suggested in the band's intro – there is something about the Offspring that makes you want to "get drunk and fuck shit up," a combination of their sarcasm and brain-mashing music perhaps. Nonetheless, for me, and some others I'm sure, this presents a bit of a problem since I'm no longer 16 (I'm 17) and my wife would get pissed if I came home sloshed and puked on the floor.

Furthermore, I was not exactly thrilled by the Offspring's rather paltry attempts at humor. The opening band L7, I guess, were a tough act to follow in the jokes department. Face it, comments like "We hate the Spice Girls" and "I think these guys are slammin' better than these guys" pale next to Donita Sparks's revelations about her roadies washing the band's panties backstage.

The Offspring are perceived by many to be "the Dexter Holland show" and to some extent this may be true. But while Dexter takes center-stage and writes the songs, in my opinion the real star is Noodles. He's a damn good guitarist, churning out razor-backed chords in a consistent barrage while bouncing on stage like the cardiogram of a man in serious trouble.

Concerning new material, the Offspring dished out plenty of tunes from their current release Ixnay on the Hombre, including such faves as "Cool to Hate," "Mota" and "The Meaning of Life." Speaking of Ixnay, I'm reminded of the question on every budding rock journalist's mind these days: Have the Offspring sold out? After all, they did move from the mom-and-pop punk label of Epitaph to the cigar-chomping comforts of Columbia Records.

To this, Dexter responds, "What are you going to do? It's funny, with the rise of our popularity, there's also been a steady rise in the number of people that hate us ... If someone wants to say that we're not punk, I don't really feel like arguing the point anymore."

I agree. Who gives a shit? Now, this may sound a little jaded but, hell, the Offspring are three-quarters the way through with their set right now and I've had a few beers, each plastic cup-full costing me five dollars a pop. I may not be at the point of puking in the bathroom, but my perception definitely has changed – some for the better, some for the worse. For one thing, I've suddenly come to accept Dexter's near Ph.D. I guess if the Offspring hadn't have made it, he'd be a college professor somewhere. Noodles, I suppose, would have a Master's. Bassist Greg K. and drummer Ron Welty – I imagine they'd at least have Bachelor's degrees.

Old Otto Luck, on the other hand, he'd still be a college drop out. Oh well, c’est la vie, as they say in Turkey. Why worry about such small matters. Instead, I think I'll grab another beer – see if I can hold it down so Mrs. Luck doesn't boot my ass right back out onto Second Avenue when I return home tonight.

May 1997

More Offspring on NY Rock:

CD Review: Conspiracy of One
The Offspring at Irving Plaza, 12/8/98
Interview with Noodles, 2/99

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