Adopted Offspring

Music: The punk band from California is suddenly on everybody's playlist.

May 27, 1999|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Radio hits make strange bedfellows.

There was a time when the only place you'd hear a song by the Offspring was on an alt-rock or underground station. Nobody thought that odd, either, as the California punk quartet was not aiming for the Top-40. These guys made music for their own amusement, not to push their album to the top of the charts.

Imagine their surprise, then, when "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" -- a cranky satire of suburban wannabe- homeboys from the band's latest album, "Americana" -- wound up becoming one of the winter's biggest hits. Embraced by MTV and mainstream radio stations alike (as well as alt-rock outlets like WHFS, whose HFStival will feature the band), "Pretty Fly" became almost inescapable.

Nor has that momentum abated with the band's current single, a catchy acoustic tune called "Why Don't You Get a Job?" In fact, these days the Offspring end up on the same radio playlists as records by Ricky Martin and B*Witched.

To which Offspring guitarist Noodles says, simply, "Wow.

"We've been seeing this a lot," he says, over the phone from his home in Orange County, California. "This record has taken us places we never expected a record to take us."

After spending most of the last six months in the Billboard Top-10, "Americana" has sold some 4 million copies. And, frankly, it strikes the band as fairly odd.

"You look at the charts, and we're up there with Cher and 'N Sync and Garth Brooks and Shania Twain and Jewel," says Noodles. "It's bizarre."

Granted, it's not as if the Offspring appeared on the charts out of nowhere. The band first made the charts courtesy of its 1994 college radio hit "Come Out and Play," and earned respectable sales for its last album, "Ixnay on the Hombre." But as much as those releases may have built the band a following, their success doesn't begin to explain what happened with "Americana."

"We're reaching people that we didn't even reach with `Ixnay.' For whatever reason," says Noodles. "But you want to be careful not to tear this apart, to wonder, `OK, what kids are we hitting with this song that we didn't hit with the other one?' We leave that for the record company people who do radio research."

One thing Noodles does know, though, is that "Pretty Fly" touched a nerve. Because of the way it mocks kids who think they're "down with the homies" when in fact they're clearly clueless, it has a special relevance for rock fans who are sick of bad white rappers and shameless crossover attempts.

Although Noodles insists the song isn't about anyone in particular, he does allow that its lyrics could easily be applied to white rapper Eminem. "I kinda think that Eminem is today's Vanilla Ice, I really do," he says. "I don't think he's any good. I mean, there's tons of good rappers out there. I just don't think Eminem is one of them. But at the same time, there's a lot of people that do think that, so you've got to give him credit." He laughs and adds, "My daughter loves him."

Still, he dismisses the notion that "Pretty Fly" is somehow an attack on hip-hop, or even rock/hip-hop crossovers. Because as far as Noodles is concerned, the more cross-pollination there is in pop music, the better things are for all concerned.

"When your gig is making music, you look to all areas of music for inspiration," he says. "It doesn't surprise me when I see Korn collaborating with Ice Cube. I think that's rad, and we need a little bit more of that.

"I think that's going to be one of the best things to come out of this Woodstock festival [July 24-26]," he continues. "It's going to have hip-hop acts, and funk acts, and rock acts, and folk acts, and electronic acts, all coming together and playing this big festival. I think that's the way it should be."

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