The Offspring

Conspiracy of One (Columbia)

Record Reviews

The Offspring

Conspiracy of One (Columbia)

Finding a distinctive sound and distinguishing pace is no crime; the Ramones and ABBA made whole careers of it. Except the Offspring don't have the universal appeal of ABBA, or the stamina of the Ramones, and their musically spare, testosterone-driven latest release, Conspiracy of One, is naked proof. They're smart, the Offspring, but the dozen, less-than-illuminating tracks here suggest that SoCal punk band might be growing a little weary of having to do as the opening cut suggests and "Come Out Swinging." Their respect for and dedication to fans hasn't flagged as they took on Columbia to release their music to the Internet first. Unfortunately, it sounds like they shot their wad by releasing the album's strongest track there, the bratty yet lovable "Original Prankster." "Original Prankster" rises above the other cuts, if only because the tune and cameo by Redman are so reminiscent of "Come Out and Play" and "Pretty Fly for a White Guy." "One Fine Day" and "Vultures" are ageless teen angst, but the rest of the songs on the album ("Living in Chaos," "Dammit, I Changed Again," "All Along") create a seamless background of frenetic rock and juvenile lyrics that worked well for the decade-old quartet when they were indie-label rebels, but are unconvincing and forced on this major-label release. It's too soon to write off the Offspring as one-trick, three-chord ponies, but they need to figure out how long they can milk their I-don't-wanna-grow-up attitude before their fans outgrow them.

* .5

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