21 Years Ago: The Offspring Release ‘Ixnay on the Hombre’
Success can lead you down some pretty surprising paths. After the monster success of Smash, the Offspring were ready for their follow-up album, but ran into some issues with Epitaph, who had released their prior effort and seen it become one of the biggest selling independent albums ever. Before the album arrived, the band made the jump to Columbia Records, which led to a little bit of backlash from the fan base until the group pulled the veil back on what had happened.
In an open letter to fans, singer Dexter Holland revealed that the band had hoped to stay with Epitaph, but the actions of owner Brett Gurewitz soured them on staying. They revealed how the label chief had attempted to sell their record to a major label for a cut of the royalties, took legal action against them to keep them on the label and ultimately sold their contract to Columbia. Holland stated that the band took less money to sign with Columbia just to move away from Gurewitz after the experience.
With the label issues out of the way, the band entered Eldorado Recording Studios in Hollywood in June of 1996 with producer Dave Jerden and plugged away into October. Not interested in giving fans exactly the same record, the guys went more rock based instead of solely relying on the punk sounds that drove their prior album. But even with the the broader musical palette, the attitude was definitely still there. The band dropped the album titled Ixnay on the Hombre, which loosely translates to "nix the man" or "down with the man," on Feb. 4, 1997.
"We recorded a few more songs than we needed," stated guitarist Noodles to Guitar Magazine. "If we had used some of the other ones that were left off, it would have ended up a little more risky. But we're not disappointed in what we kept. I think it's a great record and I love these songs. Maybe we'll save the limb-walking for the next one." But the disc was a harder sell after the monster success of Smash, and not everyone was receptive to the expansion of their sound.
Though it failed to live up to the sales of its predecessor, Ixnay on the Hombre did yield some pretty great songs, helped to expand the band's sound and time has allowed for a more favorable response in reflection than the one the disc initially received upon release.
The album kicked off with "Disclaimer," a track that lived up to its title, utilizing the Offspring's wit as special guest Jello Biafra queued listeners in on what was to come. "This American apple pie institution known as parental discretion will cleanse any sense of innuendo or sarcasm from the lyrics that might actually make you think, and will also insult your intelligence at the same time. So protect your family, this album contains explicit depictions of things which are REAL; these REAL things are commonly known as LIFE. So, if it sounds sarcastic, don't take it seriously; if it sounds dangerous, do not try this at home or at all; and if it offends you, just don't listen to it," warned Biafra against the backdrop of a revved up, pit-ready soundtrack.
Biafra wouldn't be the only special guest, as Calvert DeForest, better known to TV viewers as Larry "Bud" Melman from David Letterman's late night show, added a brief spoken word moment in a hidden track within "Change the World" in the album's closing moments. Meanwhile, Jason "Blackball" McLean, who was known to Offspring fans for the "keep 'em separated" line in "Come Out and Play," returned with additional vocals on the song "Mota" from Ixnay on the Hombre. But all three of the songs featuring the guest appearances were just songs that added to the depth of the record on not the focus tracks.
The real core was in the singles, with "Gone Away" being the huge song that got the album off on the right foot and cemented that the momentum would keep going after Smash. The track was actually the second single released from the album and showed a deeper, more emotional side than what many might have ever expected. The anguish in Holland's vocals is real as he belts about a loved one lost in an accident, taken too soon and the emotional toll that it took. Listeners connected to the song, sending it straight to No. 1 at mainstream rock radio, and it has remained a staple of the band's sets.
The first single, though not as successful, was "All I Want." The track was a solid choice to lead off the album as the high energy rocker felt like it could have lived on Smash and provided a bridge between the two albums. Holland initially penned the track in a songwriting competition for Epitaph Records and labeled it "Protocol." When the song didn't end up getting used for its intended outlet, he reworked the song into more of an Offspring-leaning track. The song hit No. 18 at mainstream rock radio.
The other major single off Ixnay on the Hombre was "I Choose," a more straight forward rock song with a more infectious percussive vibe. The track would hit No. 5 at radio. There was also a fourth single, "The Meaning of Life," a full-on pit-starter. The track was full of attitude, with Holland singing about rebelling at those who try to project their life experiences on him, while he was more interested in finding his own way. Though it did little stateside, the track did earn some spins in Australia.
The band toured for the better part of a year on Ixnay on the Hombre, but found themselves inspired while on the road and had a relatively quick turnaround, offering up the Americana album a year after Ixnay's release. Still, Ixnay on the Hombre did fairly well in terms of sales, debuting at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart and going on to be certified platinum.
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