Sound — 8
Long time Offspring fans rejoice, they have finally released their long awaited 8th studio effort. The 5 years since the release of 'Splinter' seemed to have altered little in the Offspring camp. Josh Freese has again filled in on drums, putting his musical sensibilities on full display. Noodles' guitar playing is understated in the soloing department, but there is no shortage of bustling riffs for you to headbang, or one-man mosh along to. As always RAFRAG combines the often conflicting 'Ignition'/'Smash' era style of straight up punk, with the more eclectic sounds maturity and major success have brought the Offspring. Ultimately when it works, the Offspring are as well oiled a machine as any, with blistering tunes such as 'Trust in You', and the blistering (believe it or not) first single 'Hammerhead'. However, the weaker moments only the album are generally overly poppy and feel somewhat contrived. In unprecedented fashion piano can be heard throughout the album. Yet ironically, it is utilised most prominently and effectively through the heavier, and overall more successful tracks.
Lyrics — 9
Dexter Holland is a class act both lyrically and vocally. The screeching, yet strangely clear character of his voice has always been the perfect middle ground between the hardcore, and gratuitously melodic vocalists in punk rock. The first half of RAFRAG attests to this quality, and even the frighteningly Linkin Parkish 'A Lot Like Me' works because of his sheer vocal prowess. The ubiquitous reggae, ska, pop, straight up rock tunes that have graced Offspring albums since 'Smash' have inspired listeners to both marvel and cringe in equal doses. Depending solely on your tastes RAFRAG succeeds or fails in this department. Dexter's delivery allows songs such as 'Kristy are you doing ok?' to sound remarkably fresh despite the age gap between the Offspring's contemparies. However, those who live and die by the 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' philosophy would argue he shouldn't be there in the first place.
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, RAFRAG is more of the Offspring at their best, combining both styles. It doesn't contain the undeniable hit material of 'Americana' or 'Smash', but it does punch you in the face with some of the most uncompromising material they have produced this side of 'Ixnay on the Hombre'. 'Hammerhead' is a song the Offspring have been always meaning to write, and the driving, aggressive palm muting of the first half of the record will give long time fans some rather unfamiliar sensations. However, the Offspring have maintained their propensity to stray from punk rock and again include a number of diverse pop driven tunes. Unfortunately I feel these tracks don't stand up to their previous efforts in this area such as 'Pretty Fly', 'Spare me the Details' or 'Don't Pick it Up'.