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POP MUSIC | Record Rack

And Now for Something Rather Familiar

The Offspring, Marilyn Manson and Sade find themselves on well-worn paths in their new CDs.

** 1/2 THE OFFSPRING "Conspiracy of One" Columbia

November 12, 2000|RICHARD CROMELIN

Is there some way to send an album back through the Internet?

The Offspring has been spending a lot of time lately in the thick of the cyber wars--sparring with Napster, building up its own Web presence, threatening to make its new album available for free on the Net (and then backing down under pressure from its record label).

From the sound of things, the band should be paying more attention to the music. The Orange County punk-rock pacesetters go by the numbers on "Conspiracy of One," stepping back from the ambition and attitude of 1998's "Americana" and settling for an unprovocative set of generic punk.

"Americana's" satiric yet sympathetic look at suburban anomie was both penetrating and entertaining. It rode a lean, barbed sound and was sparked by the periodic touches that can give a record a distinctive sonic signature--like the sudden break and cowbell tap in "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)," itself an echo of the drum kick of the earlier hit "Come Out and Play."

The "Conspiracy" song in that tradition is "Original Prankster," which features a sample of War's Latin-rock standard "Low Rider" and an appearance by rapper Redman. They do better when they play things themselves.

"Americana's" producer, Dave Jerden, has been succeeded by Brendan O'Brien (Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots), who has drained a lot of the orange from the lads, de-emphasizing their bright hooks and installing a gray backdrop. He downright Seattle-izes them in the Pearl-Jammin' "Denial, Revisited" and the Nirvana-esque "Vultures."

All in all, pretty bland for a fine band.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are due in stores Tuesday.

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