Orange County proto-punk quartet The Offspring isn’t known for pointed, pertinent politics: Its 26-year career has been buoyed by singalong hits such as “Self Esteem,” “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” and the cowbell-clanking “Come Out and Play (Keep ’Em Separated).”
But you can’t be a snotty brat forever. On the band’s new “Days Go By,” lyricist-frontman Dexter Holland has grown older, wiser and angrier since 2008’s “Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace.”
“On that record, we had a song called “S--- is F---ed Up,” and that’s what it seemed like at the time,” says the hedgehog-haired rocker, 46. “It was laughable four years ago, but now? Maybe ‘scary’ is the word.”
So Holland unsheathes socially-conscious claws on “Days Go By,” which the group is backing in concert in San Jose next week.
He jumps into the fray on the first track, a hyper-chorded “The Future is Now” (which equates modern technology with George Orwell’s prescient novel “1984”), then sides with the Occupy movement in the next anthem, the
1 percent-deriding “Secrets From the Underground.”
The set rockets through the reflective title cut, then closes with a pair of apocalyptic blasts _ “Dividing By Zero” and the “Dr. Strangelove”-inspired “Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell.”
Still, it’s a tricky lyrical tightrope Holland walks. “You want to talk about what’s going on, but if you get really specific, then it comes across as heavy-handed or grandstanding,” he says. “So I tried to make it vague enough that it was still open to interpretation. And ultimately, I want to offer some hope to the world, like, ‘Hey, we know things suck, and it sucks for everybody. But you’ve got to keep in mind that things will get better. That this, too, shall pass.”
Words are usually the last ingredient added to an Offspring song, so Holland often winds up puzzling over a blank page of music.
But producer Bob Rock helped him along, first by sending him alone to Vancouver on a writing sabbatical (where he conceived the personal “All I Have Left is You” about his recent divorce), and then requesting some “comfort food for Offspring fans” — the sunshiney “Cruising California (Bumpin’ in My Trunk).”
In Austin, Texas, Holland’s daughter Alexa entered showbiz as folksinger Lex Land, so he’s composing as a concerned parent, too.
“It’s gone beyond hurt, now people are just pissed,” he says of the Occupy movement. “And it’s a warning that we’d better address this injustice now, or there’s really going to be an uprising.”