The Offspring makes three kinds of songs, in ascending order of toxicity: There's the two-and-a-half-minute speedball spit out so quickly it leaves little effect beyond making your knee reflexively bounce. There's the slick, overblown love song that could be mistaken for a Winger hit (1997's inexplicable "Gone Away" being the most egregious example). And then you have "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)" and the new "Original Prankster," which sound unnervingly like The Offspring parodying a "Weird Al" Yankovic parody of The Offspring, the unbearable result being the kind of stupidity that thinks it's clever. Those hopped-up novelty songs abound on 1998's Americana, a leading reason it warrants consideration for the title of Worst Album Of The '90s, a record bad enough to create a backlash against not only pop-punk, but also novelty songs, guitars, smug thirtysomethings, and the human race. So it qualifies as some sort of faint praise to say that the new Conspiracy Of One fares a bit better. Setting aside the abhorrent "Original Prankster," which plumbs new depths of Yankovic appropriation—and throws in a stupid Rob Schneider sample to boot—the bulk of the album indulges The Offspring's preferable loud-fast-shrill side, breezing through harmlessly speedy fare like "Come Out Swinging." "Denial, Revisited" is the closest to a "Gone Away"-style mid-tempo power-ballad, and it's awful, but it's far from a career low point. Conspiracy Of One's crowd-pleasing novelty idiocy doesn't run much deeper than its single, and while that may disappoint those who enjoyed Americana, it makes it The Offspring's most tolerable record in years.

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