Pretty Flawed

At Desert Sky, the Offspring drag "punk" into the mire of mindlessness

Of course, such matters didn't deter the Desert Sky zealots, who sang in unison to the song, right down to the screeching "Uh huh, uh huh" part that might be the most annoying moment in '90s rock.

Bad as "Pretty Fly" is, it provided one of the few moments in the show when the band seemed able to find a coherent rhythmic groove. Even with two percussionists, the band's rhythmic section was a train wreck, with drummer Ron Welty still unable--after 12 years--to execute the double-time, hard-core-punk beats that the band lives for.

Another rare example of rhythmic competence came with the band's current hit, "Why Don't You Get a Job?" The steel-drum intro and the touches of marimba on the bridge suggest that the band might be better suited for work as a Jimmy Buffett cover band than the hard-core angst-monger they insist on being.

Besides the song's grating a cappella intro ("My friend's got a girlfriend/Man he hates that bitch"), what sticks in the craw about this tune is how brazenly the band stole from other songs to create it. The chorus is a fairly obvious combination of The Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia," but the bridge is the true shameless part. Holland lifts the entire bridge melody from Doris Troy's 1963 hit "Just One Look." Such hints of plagiarism are nothing new for Holland, who reworked Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" riff for the idiotic "Self Esteem," and lifted his own "Come Out and Play" for "Pretty Fly."

Holland didn't say much during the Desert Sky show, but his few comments propagated the suburban, shopping-mall sense of rebellion that dominates his songs. Introducing the song "Walla Walla," Holland announced, "This is a song about prison. 'Cause going to prison's cool, right?" Halfway through the tune, the band brought out a pudgy friend dressed in penitentiary stripes, who danced around the stage and took the mike for a brief, cheesy "I'm innocent" routine.

One gets the perpetual sense that the Offspring jumped on the punk bandwagon at a point (mid-'80s) when the movement was increasingly overrun with obnoxious bullies who thought that the important thing was to be gross and snide at all times, regardless of the target. It's these types who are often cited by X's John Doe and Exene Cervenka as the people who destroyed the vibe of the early-'80s L.A. punk scene.

Consider the Desert Sky show's closing song, the Offspring's breakneck appropriation of Morris Albert's 1975 hit "Feelings." How ballsy can you get, taking on a forgotten one-hit wonder, 24 years after his only hit? Can't wait for that hard-hitting protest song about Gerald Ford.

The "joke" of "Feelings" is that Holland turns Albert's mushy declarations of love into strident expressions of romantic hostility. Here's a typical verse: "Imagine/Beating on your face/Trying to forget my/Feelings of hate." Hilarious, huh?

That's the way it goes with Holland. It doesn't matter what the subject is, as long as you say something angry, and say it loud. It's the Andrew "Dice" Clay school of rebellion.

It seems more than a coincidence that Holland so resembles Puck, the insufferable bike messenger who remains the most popular cast member ever on MTV's The Real World. It's as though Holland, and other like-minded cretins, have turned punk--which once was about a steadfast refusal to be absorbed by a hypocritical mainstream society--into a license to be as boorish as you wanna be. Basically, to be Puck.

It was obvious, particularly among the guys in the crowd, that punk has been reduced to rampant spitting, slamming, and saying "fuck" a lot. Punk is the smirking kid who sauntered through the aisles at Desert Sky in baggy jeans with "I Need to Get Laid" scrawled on his white muscle shirt, a $20 bill waving from his right hand.

In 1999, punk is the decadent frat house that you always hated. It's macho, sexist bullshit. It's mindless extreme-sports grandstanding. Let the Offspring have the use of the term. If that's what punk has been reduced to, who wants it

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