London Highbury Garage

[B]The Offspring[/B] might be about as glamorous as the circa-'76 punx still touring the nostalgia circuit, but their teenage fans don't let the side down...

The Offspring, the lightning-fast, thunderclap-loud guitar-rock success of 1999, are playing a hush-hush fanclub-only show in a tiny sweatbox. Doin’ it for the kids, in the only way they know – with crackling Technicolor noize and planet-sized hooks and choruses so unabashed they send your regular indie nerds snivelling back to their [a]Belle & Sebastian[/a]records. Something, though, is up.

The Offspring might be about as glamorous as the circa-’76 punx still touring the nostalgia circuit, but their teenage fans don’t let the side down. With mohicans, leathers and smudged make-up, they look awesome. For them, punk has taken on some kind of holy meaning – all noserings and naivete, it’s transformed rock’n’roll into something more than just unit-shifting commerce.

It’s a shame, then, that the band aren’t so committed to the same values. When one scrawny kid clambers onstage and takes a photo of his heroes (hell, it’s a fans’ gig, isn’t it?), he’s immediately bundled offstage by security. And when a mohican-sporting kid grabs the mic and asks why a punk band is allowing security to treat their fans in such a way, Offspring main dude Dexter Holland mock-asks security to leave the kids alone, and then mock-tells them to kick mohican-boy out. Cuz it’s just a joke, yeah?

It’s a sad indictment of what punk boils down to in 1999: bands like The Offspring with little substance, little to say and little purpose beyond entertaining for an hour or so; a charade of faux-rebellion, with the passionate kids in the pit the last to be let in on the joke. If that’s all it means to The Offspring, then they don’t deserve fans this desperate to believe in something.

For The Offspring, punk isn’t so much a lifestyle or a cause as a speed of playing, a timbre of distorted guitar and a neatly defined section in HMV. True, songs like ‘Self Esteem’ or ‘Come Out And Play’ are passable punk pop nuggets, but it’s not enough. The Offspring are as hollow and as ultimately fake as the lemon-meringue hero of ‘Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)’. Forever sheep in wolves’ clothing.

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