The conventional answer when faced with the question “what is the best album by Dexter ‘PHD in Molecular Biology’ Holland’s The Offspring” is to blurt out ‘Smash’ and turn your nose up to anyone who preferred the album that featured those songs about being a work-shy Vanilla Ice fan. Granted, ‘Smash’ is excellent; one of the most popular punk rock records in existence, with sales reaching over 6 million (shit, think about how many bottles of Gringo Bandito you could buy with the dosh made from that!) However, I want focus to move away from the default and look towards their 4th album, ‘Ixnay on the Hombre.’
Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but in my eyes, (and to my questionable ears) ‘Ixnay’ will always remain the high point of The Offspring’s career. This was an album I would listen to religiously with several other like-minded revision dodgers during the Mario Kart/Goldeneye sessions that were often held at my friend James’ house. In fact, this might have been the ONLY record we listened to, simply because no one could be bothered to change the CD or had anything else worth listening to, save for that 'Blue Angels' by Pras or a borrowed P.O.D. album - so having ‘Ixnay’ on repeat seemed the logical conclusion.
In traditional Offspring fashion, the first track is a teaser intro provided by Jello Biafra, ridiculing those who took the social aspects portrayed in ‘Smash’ to seriously, backed by some suitably groggy punk, making it sound like some demented jingle you’d find on a backwater American pirate radio station. The first ‘proper’ song, bursts fourth entitled ‘The Meaning Of Life’, complete with a riff and guitar tone that is set to be ‘the sound of The Offspring’ (and those familiar with their career will know what one I mean). As it drives over the tightly packed cymbal crashes, and rolls immediately into the stead-fast flow of choppy punk rock and textbook “wooaaaahhooohhhs.”
Drugs anthem ‘Mota’ follows with Holland splitting his conscious between two independent parties, one reveling in how wasted he can get “that bongs that’s on the table starts to call my name…”. The other part, present in the song’s chorus, ridicules the waster: “your memory’s gone and so is your life…” indicating how smoking a monster doobie and eating biscuits on the loo is counter-productive. The song is however, erroneous in it’s message, stating that “losing out just never felt so right” – possibly embracing or resigning to the fact that getting stoned is something you’ll never escape from.
I’m torn between deciding whether ‘Ixnay’ is essentially a depressing record or a bitter, resentful one. It features a fair amount of despondency and disgust in the form of the rampant ‘Cool To Hate’ which is all middle-finger, “fuck everything” up-in-arms abhorrence of everyone and everything and the misanthropic splutter of ‘Leave It Behind’; which is perhaps one of the darkest songs the California 4-piece have recorded, both lyrically and musically. The guitars sound like they’ve been submerged in grit and old engine oil, fusing this clanking, harsh fuzz to their barren punk rock nature. ‘Me and My Old Lady’ and ‘Gone Away’ seem to be split in two parts; the former telling a tale of a love/hate relationship between two people set to a slight Mariachi-meets-punk beat (something that will go on to feature on future Off spring releases). Much like several of the songs from this album, the phrase “we don’t care” runs predominantly through 'Me and My Old Lady', giving a sense of carelessness and a brazen, raw attitude that this album obviously bleeds. ‘Gone Away’ has Holland pleading for the return of his loved one, offering to sacrifice his life for hers. It’s in stark contrast to the rest of the album – a forlorn, emotive piece that shows a different side to the usual anti-social rantings.
Tracks like ‘All I Want’, which is yet another anti-authority rush of non-conformity (as featured on Crazy Taxi 2) and the ‘I told you so’ narrative of ‘Way Down The Line’ give ‘Ixnay’ that sour sound of loser-desperation. ‘Don’t Pick It Up’ kind of interrupts the flow by featuring ska-pick ups on a song detailing how cruising for hookers is best avoided. I’m sure that rhyming ‘doggy-doo’ with ‘blue’ is one lyrical couplet Holland wishes he’d never, ever thought of. You’re a doctor/pilot/hot sauce inventor for fucks sake. ‘Amazed’ is a pessimist’s wet dream of eye-rolling surprise, whilst ‘Change The World’ is a bitter-sweet pick-me-up of a final track, building up from a steady drumbeat to become the Sergeant Major screaming in your face in an attempt to get the listener to make some adjustments to the world, even though their efforts may well be futile.
But why would an album so laced with negativity and misery at the world be something considered as an artist’s best work? Well, why not? In many instances, 'Ixnay' states an apparent disparaging fact about life/existence of a person or persons and then gives another statement telling them to change and an urge to better their chances.
You’ve probably come to realize that ‘Ixnay on the Hombre’ isn’t a nice record. In fact, the album title translates as ‘Fuck The Man’ - whether this is a possible reference towards a certain former label boss about contract disputes, I have no idea.
In any case, ‘Ixnay On The Hombre’ will always have that special place in my heart as the most consistent, raw and anger-driven album The Offspring have ever recorded. Then again, it could just be a load of men who should be old enough to know better, shouting over some noisy guitars whilst my nostalgia chip catches fire as it rolls into overdrive.
(For anyone that cares what I'm banging on about, you can buy 'Ixnay on the Hombre' for a few quid on amazon marketplace. CASHBACK.)