The Offspring's roots: 'The Offspring' (1989) debut album review

Exploring the 1989 debut album's legacy, controversies (including a banned song), and hidden gems
Offspring Chicago 1994
Offspring Chicago 1994 / Martyn Goodacre/GettyImages

The Offspring is an American punk rock band that gained popularity in the 1990s, and we have explored their general history before. They have released several albums throughout their career, and, along with bands like Green Day, helped re-popularize punk as a musical style. For some fans, one of this particular band's most notable albums is their self-titled debut album. The Offspring was released on June 15, 1989, and featured a new version of their first single, "I'll Be Waiting." The album also features what may considered the band's classic lineup (Dexter Holland on vocals and guitar, Noodles on guitar, Ron Welty on drums, and Greg K on bass).

The album features a mix of pop punk and hardcore punk influences, and musicianship which hinted they'd one day be among the most prominent punk bands (even if seldom considered “kings of punk” by the mainstream or alternative press). Some of the notable tracks from the album include "Jennifer Lost the War" (a performance of which you can see here on the "Rockstock" public access show),
"Elders," "Crossroads," "Out on Patrol," "Blackball," and "Beheaded." Personally, I like this album overall and prefer it over Americana.

The Offspring wasn't that successful...but some respect the debut

While the album didn't achieve massive commercial success upon its initial release, it laid the groundwork for The Offspring's future success. Of course, The Offspring's breakthrough to mainstream success came with their later albums, particularly Smash (1994), which included hits like "Self Esteem" and leadoff single "Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)," as well as "Gotta Get Away" and underrated gems like "Genocide," "Bad Habit" (a rip-roaring track bout road rage), and the title track, "Smash."

Also, for those who insist this band is too pop and "not real punk," consider how, at the time, MTV Hootie songs like "Hold My Hand" and "I Only Want to Be With You" were actually somehow being promoted as "alternative." Compared to that sort of alternative rock, The Offspring definitely sounded more hardcore.

Are The Offspring sort of ashamed of this album? (Apparently)

Though The Offspring album has fans, the band rarely plays any of these songs live, aside from "Beheaded," which is a bit of a shame. This is also despite doing shows where other albums were played it in their entirety, to celebrate those corresponding anniversaries. The album did not see substantial airplay or even promotion from the group's label. However, years later, the song "Beheaded" would be featured in the movie Idle Hands and appears in its soundtrack. It's even the song that the band plays when Dexter Holland gets his scalp ripped open by an evil, sentient hand!

The banned song!

It wouldn't seem right to review this album without discussing the elephant in the room: This album has a track that has largely been banned, partially by the band itself. Though this is hardly a secret, some people still may not be aware of this fact, and that the song in question could quite literally have gotten The Offspring in legal trouble. What is the song called? Well, I could technically type it here, but I'll just call it "K the P" (fans of the band will surely already know what it's called anyway).

What's a shame is that, actually, "K the P" is a pretty killer track. It has a neat bassline, kickin' drums, a nice guitar tone, and a rippin' guitar solo that is somewhat overlooked as a slice of musical bad-assery. Of course, the problem stems from the lyrics and the song title. It makes me wonder if The Offspring could re-record this one with updated lyrics, so they could re-introduce the song and not be accused of potentially supporting political violence. It's just a thought, especially as they are planning to create a new album.

Stray facts

  • The Offspring was recorded in 1989 at South Coast Recording in Santa Ana, California, with punk rock producer Thom Wilson producing. He actually has serious additional punk history credit, as he also produced albums for bands like Dead Kennedys, T.S.O.L., D.O.A., Bad Religion, The Joykiller, Social Distortion, and The Vandals!
  • Like so many other bands, The Offspring started small, playing covers at small venues, as well as on public access stations. In fact, it should be remembered that, back in the 1980s, the idea of being in a "famous punk band" pretty much didn't cross most people's minds. At most, it was assumed that a punk band might occasionally get a bigger gig than some other bands. However, the idea of playing in front of massive crowds was considered absurd to most 1980s hardcore punk bands.
  • This album does contain some of the trademark "Woah"-style pop vocal elements comparable to The Bangles, which was expanded upon with their second album, Ignition.
  • Four of this album's songs spring from a demo tap recorded in 1988.
  • The Offspring were signed to Nemesis Records for this album, and they are surely the most famous band related to that record company.

Here's a song I did not previously mention, which is an early example of their unique style: