For The Offspring, four decades as a band has helped them master the art of timing—so much so that they don’t even realize they’re doing it. While taking nearly a decade to finish an album sounds like their attempt to create a punk version of Guns N Roses’ Chinese Democracy (which they famously joked about in 2003), their long-awaited 10th album has an old-school punchy feel that’s pertinent to the pandemic era.
“It’s almost like the time had to be right for this record for whatever reason it just wasn’t right until now,” frontman Dexter Holland told SPIN over Zoom, sitting with guitarist Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman in the band’s plush red studio in Huntington Beach. While there’s certainly been no lack of inspiration over the last few years, the title picks a simple way to sum up the world’s harrowing survival of 2020’s hellscape by giving it a playful middle finger. “Where we’re at in the world is just a sort of onslaught of bad news and bad things. ‘Let the Bad Times Roll’ sounds like an attitude amongst the people who are like ‘Bring it! What else you got?!’” Holland said.
Though they’ve never been a political band, taking stock of the pandemic and the movements stoked by civil unrest gradually became part of the album’s DNA. Songs like album opener “This Is Not Utopia” and the clap-a-long title track added to the high-octane energy of older tracks penned since the release of Days Go By in 2012. In the time between albums, the band has had a notable change to its own chemistry with the departure of original bassist Greg K, who filed a lawsuit against the band in 2019 following his exit, claiming he was pushed out of the band without fair compensation. However, the legal issues with their ex-bandmate didn’t derail the band, which kept rolling on tour, first with No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal filling in before finally filling the slot with their former backup guitarist Todd Morse.
Stepping in and out of album mode with producer Bob Rock while touring and working on other side ventures allowed Holland and Wasserman to listen to their work with fresh ears when time permitted. Part of the reason it worked was because the band never seemed to disappear due to the demand for the songs that brought them to the pinnacle of rock stardom. They were touring with Morse and drummer Pete Parada right up until the pandemic forced them to abort the rest of their shows in South America. They had to scramble and find separate flights home just in time before the country grounded planes and shut down its borders.
“I like to say that we played the last concert in the Western Hemisphere, I’m just going to claim that,” Holland said jokingly.
Though the album was finally done last year, Holland and Wasserman still thought it needed time to marinate. They opted to tinker a little longer before the April 16, 2021 release date was announced in February on their social media. As the world starts to emerge from chaos with their own fresh ears, Wasserman says “Let the Bad Times Roll” feels like it’s finally ready to roll out.
“It speaks to where the world finds itself right now,” the guitarist said. “In a year or two, the songs might not mean as much, although I think they will…I think there’s a universal appeal to all of these songs.”
Notes of timelessness are sprinkled throughout the album’s 12-song tracklist. Aside from addressing the year that will live in infamy, the band dusts off a supercharged punk cover of immortal symphonic masterpiece “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” and a piano version of their somber perennial 1997 hit “Gone Away.” And then of course their swing-tempo track “We Never Have Sex Anymore” is a nod to the phrase eternally uttered by everyone whose ever been in a long-term relationship.
It all makes for a potent punch for the band to serve fans after a long hangover when they finally get back on the road. Recently, the band announced a UK arena tour in November with The Hives.
Getting new songs to the people is The Offspring’s number-one goal and as times change and the world opens up again, they hope that taking the scenic route on “Let the Bad Times Roll” will ultimately lead to more good times ahead. Just like anything else happening in 2021, they approach the situation with fingers crossed.
“Hopefully the fans are still with us and they’re going to enjoy this, we love this record, we think it’s great but until the fans hear it, it always feels like you’re out on the ice,” Wasserman says. “Is the ice gonna hold or are you gonna sink in and freeze your ass off in the water.”