Hard though it is to believe, The Offspring have been around for 37 years. Formed in 1984 in Garden Grove, California, they’ve endured multiple lineup changes, released ten studio albums, sold over 40 million records worldwide, and kept the candle burning for punk rock for four decades. Best known for mixing social commentary with gallows humor, they’re legitimate rock legends. Here, we take a look at the 10 best The Offspring songs of all time.
By the time they came to record 2008’s Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, The Offspring were ready for a change. Hammerhead shakes things up, stirs things around, shifts time, and dishes up a stunningly fresh result. The hard-hitting drums and Bryan “Dexter” Holland’s urgent delivery are pitch-perfect, resulting in a song that ranks among their most epic.
9. You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid
On You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid, the unnamed kid is a sociopath who delights in manipulating others to do his will. There are echoes of “Lord of the Flies,” but according to Dexter, the protagonist could just as easily be a politician or a head of industry. “You can take him as a high school kid who tries to form his own social group, but on the way he manipulates others with a behavior disorder that will never leave him,” he’s explained. “You might see that guy later as a United States deputy or running a corporation. Even if that boy has grown up, his idea of manipulating will always be with him.” Either way, it’s delicious, with an urgent delivery that matches the content perfectly.
8. Days Go By
It’d be wrong to say The Offspring have settled down as they’ve grown older, but every now and again, they do a very good impression of it. On 2012’s Days Go By, they flirt with the mainstream with a radio-ready, effortlessly assured piece of rock. There’s a certain softness to the lyrics (“Days go by and still I think of you / Days when I couldn’t live my life without you / Days go by and still I think of you / Days when I couldn’t live my life without you”) that suggests that, even if the band have never really grown up, they have matured.
7. The Meaning Of Life
As Kerrang writes, after opening Ixnay On The Hombre with the disclaimer “this American apple pie institution known as parental discretion will cleanse any sense of innuendo or sarcasm from the lyrics which might actually make you think,” the band continues to show their ‘if it offends you, just don’t listen to it’ mindset with The Meaning of Life, a jubilant piece of life-affirming punk rock that’s perfectly summed up by a music video that features the twin delights of a high-speed wheelchair race through the desert and Dexter hanging upside down in a tree with a monkey.
6. Gone Away
For a band best known for their cynical, satirical songs and gallows humor, Gone Away from the 1997 album Ixnay On The Hombre comes as a surprise. Gone is the sarcasm, replaced by a sincere, brutally personal approach that tackles the death of Dexter’s girlfriend. With lines like ‘Heaven’s so far away / And it stings / Yeah it stings now / The world is so cold / Now that you’ve gone away,’ there’s an openness and honesty here that’s almost painful. Dexter’s emotional delivery matches the lyrical tone perfectly.
5. Want You Bad
As NME rightly notes, Want You Bad has aged remarkably well since its release in 2000. 21 years since it first hit the airwaves, its cheeky chorus and catchy hook are still as irresistible as ever.
4. Come Out And Play
People sometimes miss the point of Come Out and Play. On first listen, it’s as playful and fun as the title suggests, with a twisting, middle Eastern guitar riff, a jaunty rhythm, and a bouncy chorus. But as LoudWire points out, behind the frivolity and the high jinx are some hard-hitting messages about gun violence and gangs in schools. An enduring favorite with fans, it got a new look this year when its iconic “Gotta keep ’em separated” refrain got replaced with a new message for the times: “Gotta go get vaccinated.”
3. Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)
Even in a catalog that drips with as much cynicism as The Offspring’s, Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) stands out. An acid-tongued swipe at middle-class white boys who ‘may not have a clue’ and ‘may not have style,’ it tears all the hopeless pretenders who ‘act like they’re from Compton’ but who couldn’t tell the difference between Ice‑T and Vanilla Ice a new one. Despite the razor-sharp sarcasm, it still ranks as one of the band’s most commercially accessible songs, with enough broad appeal to get the tweens hopping as much as the 20-something rabble-rousers. Helped along by an outrageously brilliant video, it topped the charts worldwide.
2. The Kids Aren’t Alright
It’s hard to believe The Kids Aren’t Alright comes from the same album as Pretty Fly. Whereas Pretty Fly was poppy, The Kids Aren’t Alright is one of the bleakest pieces of punk rock in the band’s back pages. Inspired by a trip Dexter took to his old hometown of Garden Grove, California, it introduces us to old friends whose “lives are worn,” a neighborhood that’s “cracked and torn,” and a street that’s swallowed “so many lives.” But while the kids most definitely aren’t alright, the song’s combination of nostalgia and resignation most certainly is.
Smash was the band’s finest album, and Self-Esteem is their finest song. The lyrics are insanely good, tackling the heavy subject (a man’s inability to let go of his emotionally abusive partner) with a deftness that speaks volumes about Dexter’s criminally underrated songwriting abilities. The stuttering bassline and gravely guitar are very obvious nods to Nirvana, but even Kurt Cobain would struggle to match Dexter’s perfectly pitched, deliberately whiny vocal. Infectious, intriguing, and utterly compelling, it’s a classic.