Camden Town in the 90's was pretty much the home of Britpop. A short walk north away and about the right age I was ideally placed geographically and historically to take advantage of this. I singularly failed to do so.

Oasis or Blur? Couldn’t care. I’m going to destroy any musical credibility I’ve ever assumed but admitting that one of the most important albums in my youth was 'Smash' by the Offspring. Are they going to let me write on this site again after learning that ?

It would be a lot more helpful if I could claim a musical epiphany listening to 'Blood on the Tracks' aged 13, hearing ‘I am the Walrus’ at a house party or at least citing 'Parklife'. Instead I’m cursed by a musical taste that retrospectively was pretty dire and I’m writing about an album, 'Smash', that still enables any subsequent statement about music you make to be dismissed by reference to your previously expressed liking for it.

It wasn’t just me though. It’s easy to forget how big this album was. 'Smash' is still the best selling album on an independent level ever. If that seems insane, it is probably because it was, as to some small extent many teenagers are.

It is hard to see with hindsight why the Offspring should be the punk band to have tapped into what was clearly a massive gap in the market. The Descendents had catchier tunes. NOFX were funnier. Green Day had more depth (which is probably why they’re now super stars while the Offspring’s star has not so much waned as plummeted).

Past punks were clearly better. The Offspring’s politics were laughable compared to, say The Dead Kennedys. While the latter gave us the satire of ‘Kill the Poor’, the former gave us ‘It’ll Be A Long Time’ (sample lyric: “Superpowers flex their wings, hold the world on puppet strings”.

Equally the Offpring’s assimilation of non-punk influences is jarringly ill-judged, the semi-ska of ‘What Happened to You’ is no ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais’.

What you need to do is not use any hindsight.

The genius of 'Smash' is how perfectly it fits the stupid teenage, baffled, angry-for-generally-no-reason demographic. From opener ‘Youth Energy’ to closer ‘Smash’, via ‘Something to Believe In’, ‘Self Esteem’, ‘Not the One’, even the song titles show you where it’s coming from.

Crucially though, it never felt like the band had aimed for that. Hell, you never get the impression from this that singer Dexter Holland would have known what a demographic was. Unlike their dire later albums where they seem desperately trying to get MTV plays, this seems honest. If it has been calculated it would have probably been cleverer.

I can still just about remember buying this album knowing nothing about it, on cassette and on the recommendation of a friend.

It was just slick enough though to be instantly accessible and just angry enough to be instantly compelling. For many people this was a gateway drug to punk. Does anyone just start on Agnostic Front or Black Flag ?

Then it went massive. For a while, a long while, you couldn’t go to a club without hearing either ‘Self Esteem’ or ‘Come Out and Play’. Normally these would be accompanied by a hugely enthusiastic but small and rather inept moshpit. I still grin when the unexpectedly subtle intro to ‘Come Out and Play’ stops for the voice that says “You’ve gotta keep em separated”.

It didn’t matter that past punks were better, this was current. This was ours.(I know it wasn’t really, but that’s what it felt like.)

It should be slightly shaming to admit how much I liked this then is that I have pretty substantially outgrown that stupid teenage, baffled, angry-for-generally-no-reason demographic phase. And yes I have just slagged off an album I should be doing the opposite with.

That’s the odd thing about 'Smash' though. Objectively I know it’s not a great album and my CD copy, bought with my first decent teenage wage to replace the worn out cassette, has been gathering dust on my shelf for ages.

If I put it on though (and I just have) from the moment the driving drum starts the first song and Dexter implores you “live like there’s no tomorrow” over the rapid-fire guitars I have to admit it: I still love this album.











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