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The Offspring: Splinter

More than 15 years into its history, The Offspring has reduced its sound to two simple approaches: There's its rote speedball punk, complete with the wordy stridency of Bad Religion, and there's its wacky side, in which singer Dexter Holland affects the adenoidal playfulness of "Weird Al" Yankovic without the actual jokes. Holland doesn't wear either persona particularly well, but the latter can be downright toxic: Americana, the 1998 album which spawned the hit "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)," tilted almost entirely toward painfully shrill goofiness, undercut by an inexplicable mean streak. Consequently, the new Splinter's overall emphasis on brief, explosive punk blasts (the whole affair runs a merciful 32 minutes) qualifies it as an improvement. The problem is that most of it is deadly dull: The only tracks that stand out, even after repeat listens, are (get this) the few wacky novelty songs. The infidelity anthem "Spare Me The Details" and "The Worst Hangover Ever" are catchy enough, though the latter sounds exactly like Yankovic doing a Sublime parody–again, mostly without the jokes–but Splinter's low point shows up right at the end, with a juvenile prison-rape gag that seems to stretch for hours. Still, given that the alternatives here entail Holland wagging a self-righteous finger at the kids of today ("Hit That") or conjuring up the spirit of Kip Winger ("Race Against Myself"), maybe that side of The Offspring is preferable after all.

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