China: 20 Years of Ixnay On The Hombre

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The Offspring – Ixnay On The Hombre

Released February 4th, 1997 on Columbia Records

Ixnay On The Hombre is hilarious largely because it’s the only instance I can name of a punk rock band accidentally selling out.  Having blown up modern rock radio with 1994’s Smash, the major label sharks were absolutely circling, but Dexter Holland and The Offspring were having none of it.  They were resolutely committed to staying on Epitaph Records, not being mainstream poster boys for punk rock, and churning out more albums.  Unfortunately for them, Epitaph was/is owned by The Legendary Sellout, Brett Gurewitz.

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After Smash became a surprise runaway success, Gurewitz was looking to sell out to a major label for some cash.  To hear Holland tell the story, Gurewitz met with literally everyone in his quest to sell punk to the corporate stooges.  Gurewitz approached the Offspring three times asking if they wanted their contract sold to a major label; each time the band refused.  Eventually Gurewitz just sold the contract to Columbia anyway, because money reigns over punk rock.  Later in the year he would check himself into rehab for heroin addiction.  Make of that what you will.

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So, The Offspring were on a major label, unwilling to return to Epitaph because of Gurewitz and possessed of major label money all of a sudden.  What’s a California pop-punk band to do?  They recorded a poppier version of Smash and labelled it “Fuck The Man” in Pig Latin.  For some reason Jello Biafra is on the “Disclaimer” at the beginning of the record, even though there’s some compelling reasons to shy away from a purist label of “punk” for Ixnay.  “Gone Away”, “I Choose”, and “Don’t Pick It Up” are all purely radio songs:  a ballad stuck halfway between skate punk and grunge, a blatant skater hook, and a ska song were all guaranteed radio play in 1997.  Still, there are some definite moments that point to the band that recorded Ignition and Smash:  “The Meaning Of Life” and “Mota” blaze along at a clip, “Cool To Hate” satirizes nihilist punk kids in the middle of a nihilist punk song, and “All I Want” fits a scorched earth into just under two minutes.  Also of note is “Change The World”, which seems to be written precisely at Brett Gurewitz.

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What’s also interesting is the sense that some of the songs are replicated one album later with an extra dose of major label pop sheen pasted over them.  “Way Down The Line” is pretty much the same song as “The Kids Aren’t Alright”:  “This kid sucks and this kid sucks and this kid had a kid and sucks, LIFE SUCKS!”  Take away the slight groove of “I Choose” and the basic pattern for “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)” emerges.  The ska-pop tone of “Don’t Pick It Up”  comes through the wash as the borderline-asshole snark of “Why Don’t You Get A Job?”  The band was trying to figure out a way to keep true to their sound here, but they would tread water and eventually just embrace their role as that California pop band that was sorta punk but not really.

 

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