Offspring readyBy John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin
THE song "Feelings" was a prime candidate for a make-over when The Offspring was looking for material. A Top 10 hit for Morris Albert in 1975, the song had been a cocktail lounge and karaoke-bar cliche for years.
"We've done some pretty serious covers, but 'Feelings' was a song we did for fun," Offspring guitarist Noodles said in a call from his Southern California home last week.
"It's so drippy and wet with emotion that it really needed (something). When Dexter (Holland) came up with that A-minor riff it was fun to jam out on. Everybody recognizes the melody whether they like it or not."
What the Offspring did with "Feelings" brings to mind "Golden Shower of Hits," an early '80s album of remakes recorded by the Circle Jerks. Noodles puts both projects in perspective as a modern-rock tradition.
"A lot of punk bands did similar things, like the Dead Kennedys doing 'Viva Las Vegas' or a band like NOFX forming an offshoot band and doing a record of Broadway tunes that they cover."
The Offspring's take on "Feelings" is one of a consistently engaging collection of songs on their current album, "Americana." The success of the disc is one of the reasons that the group is headlining Big Mele '99 at the Turtle Bay Hilton on Saturday. It will be the band's first show in Hawaii since they played After Dark (now the new World Cafe) in Iwilei.
"We spent a year working on the record and now we're out playing the songs live and trying to do a better and better live show. We're still working on what we do in the show to keep it fun and energetic, as well as sonically right there. That's really it, and it's been great. I think we're doing the best shows we've ever done."
The Offspring has been playing shows across the United States, Europe and Australia. The schedule included Woodstock '99. Noodles says the event "left a bad taste in my mouth."
"We were there on the first day and we just blew in and out. It was kinda chaotic. Too many freaking people. I didn't see any violence but the problems I saw were big fences, tons of security, and tons of nudity that seemed like a really contrived effort at getting back to the (original) spirit but seemed more like cheesy pornography.
"I think even the first time it was kind of naive, God bless 'em, but this time there were a lot of negatives going on."
Next stop for The Offspring is Japan. The tour will continue through the end of year. After that they'll take a look at doing another album (for more information check the band's Internet site www.offspring.com.
In the meantime there's plenty of life remaining in "Americana." The overall tone is grim but humorous as Noodles, Holland (guitar/vocals), Greg K (bass) and Ron Welty (drums) address such perennially relevant topics as alienation, mass-market materialism, social decay in modern America and the emotional baggage people drag around with them from one relationship to the next.
Noodles credits Frank Kozik with adding an extra dimension to the disc through his art work. Each art panel portrays the moral ambience of songs like "The Kids Aren't Alright" and "Why Don't You Get A Job?"
"(Kozki) has done some covers before and a lot of concert posters all over the West Coast. He's big in Portugal and Germany, and we were big fans. When we saw the picture of a boy on a swing we thought it was perfect for the cover. An All-American clean-cut boy with an injury to his leg, a perversion on his lap, and some kind of evil reaching in to get him. I think (Kozik) nailed it with all the interior illustrations too."
"Walla Walla" dismisses "people who want to take the risks but don't want to take any responsibility for their actions," while "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)" is a sarcastic portrait of clueless fad chasers.
"Everyone struggles with their identity at some point in their lives. They'll look back at high school pictures and are horrified at what they let themselves get into. The problem with the 'pretty fly' guy is that the chances are that three months after he totally adopts everything hip-hop he's probably going to get into line-dancing with a big hat and cowboy boots. There are people who never find their own gig and just keep adopting others'."
With material like that, and the success of two previous multi-platinum albums, "Smash" and "Ixnay on the Hombre," it isn't all that surprising that "Americana" has sold more than 3.5 million copies in the U.S. and more than 8 million worldwide. Quite good for four guys whose musical skills were so rudimentary that they didn't even own instruments when they founded the band in the mid-'80s.
Noodles said they made their acting debut with slightly better qualifications, playing themselves in the horror/comedy "Idle Hands."
"It makes fun of other horror movies, but if you blinked you missed it (in theaters). I think it's coming out on video this month."
Featuring: The Offspring, Bad Religion, Fun Lovin' Criminals, Vandals and A.F.I.
Big Mele '99
Concert time: 11 a.m. Saturday; gates open at 10
Venue: Turtle Bay Hilton
Cost: $26 plus service charges
Also: More information available at www.goldenvoice.com. No coolers, lawn chairs, outside food or drinks, and no parking on the highway
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