Before we begin, I’m going to go on record here and say that we shouldn’t really be mad at The Offspring for recording an album like this one, as it’s really no different from any of their albums since Smash (not taking production values into account, that is). Yes, Smash is held in high esteem by 90’s punk rock fans almost everywhere, while every album afterwards is usually met with less and less enthusiasm, but they’re all structured the same. The first single is generally a jokey tune, with big hooks or dumb lyrics or some kind of movie reference worked in somehow (I do acknowledge that both “Ixnay” and “Rise and Fall” avoided this trend but don’t forget that “I Choose” and “Stuff Is Messed Up” were still singles) (and I’m aware that technically “Cruising California” was the second single from this album, but it was the first to get a world-wide release). The single usually isn’t a very good representation of what the album is like at all and more times often than not the rest of the songs are all decent enough to be deemed inoffensive, while a handful of songs can truly be considered “great” (and then there are the filler songs / other joke tunes meant to be released as future singles).
“Days Go By” is no different in that aspect. Yes, “Cruising California (Bumpin’ in My Trunk)” is god-awful- I’m not going to deny that- and I’m not saying that everyone has to like the album just because the rest of it isn’t an auto-tuned mess, but I am saying that we shouldn’t really be all that surprised or mad at the band for doing the exact same thing that they’ve always done. After all, we can put it past us that Bad Religion will forever record the same albums over and over again (regardless of whether or not we like it), so why can’t we do the same for the Offspring?
[That’s a rhetorical question. Don’t answer it. I’m sure the answer has something to do with leaving Epitaph and going mainstream or something].
Now that it’s been settled that “Days Go By” is a typical Offspring album, let’s get to the songs themselves… all of which are typical Offspring-fare. Album opener “The Future Is Now” features the slow intro-into-fast riffing approach, as well as a Dead Kennedys reference before the first verse is even over. Track two, “Secrets from the Underground” takes the signature Offspring move by having one guitar strum a chord and let it ring out while the other guitar plays all the notes in between. Both songs are pretty typical for the Offspring, and fans worried after hearing “Cruising California” will be pleasantly surprised. The album’s title track, while sounding a little too much like the Foo Fighters, isn’t particularly offensive either (and if it is offensive to anyone, they clearly haven’t been paying attention to the Offspring for the last 15 years).
Then there are the standard filler tracks that I mentioned earlier. “Turning Into You” and “Hurting As One” aren’t awful and will fit right in for when you’re in the mood for the Offspring, but “All I Have Left Is You” is that sentimental ballad that the Offspring decides is necessary every few albums. It’s bland and tacky, as one would expect of a ballad, and it’s a wonder why they continue to record ballads when they’ll never top “Gone Away” from “Ixnay on the Hombre” (I will prepare to eat crow for whenever the next album drops, but I really don’t think it’s going to happen). “I Wanna Secret Family (With You)” is a dumb throwaway song with dumb throwaway lyrics. I’m kind of surprised they didn’t make it a ska song like they did with “Don’t Pick It Up” or “The Worst Hangover Ever”. That said, the chorus is kind of fun to sing along with, provided that you’re doing it in a space where none of your friends will catch you.
I don’t really want to discuss the crap of the crop, but it must be done. Everyone knows “Cruising California” might as well have featured a guest spot by Nicki Minaj, so I’m going to skip that one. But would you believe me if I told you that “Cruising California” wasn’t the worst song on “Days Go By”? It’s true. “OC Guns” is a reggae-tinged song with incredibly obnoxious lyrics that go “Tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki, waddup holmes?” Typing that just made me annoyed, so imagine how terrible it is to listen to it. Maybe it would’ve been tolerable as an instrumental, but the lyrics absolutely kill any hope of it being good. Not even the sampling (or possibly a recreation) of the bottle clinking from the Warriors can save it. Despite how bad these two songs are, longtime Offspring fans will be the most disappointed in the re-recording of “Dirty Magic”, from the band’s 1992 album “Ignition”. The original still holds up today, so playing it any differently seems pointless other than to fill up more space on the album. I know that the band has been considering recording a new version of the song for awhile now, but it’s still played almost exactly the same, save for maybe the distortion kicking in a little sooner. The backup harmonies are new too, but I doubt that will translate any differently in a live setting. It’s not 100% awful, but the necessity of it does beg some questioning.
Luckily the album ends on a high note, with the 1-2 punch of “Dividing By Zero” and “Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb the Hell”. Featuring classic Offspring guitar leads, speedy tempos and the signature Dexter “whoa” (and, for the uninitiated wondering about the title of the latter track, a Dr. Strangelove reference), these two songs almost make up for the rest of the album. When Noodles went on record saying that the new album could be likened to “Ignition”, these are the songs that he was talking about.
While it is by no means a perfect album, “Days Go By” is exactly what we should all expect from the Offspring at this point in time. A decent intro, leading into mediocre filler and worse, and finally it gets topped off with a last second saving grace. Maybe it changes the order of when and where the filler appears, but if the last decade has been any indication, then this is the best that we can all hope to get from the Offspring these days, for better or for worse.